A Legacy of Forward Thinking

By Anna Guy

The morning we spoke with David Murray, Chief Operating Officer and President of Hydro-Québec Production, he was coming back from announcing the milestone, $613 million investment into the rejuvenation of the Rapide-Blanc powerhouse, located north of the city of Trois-Rivières. The Rapide-Blanc power plant, originally built in the 1930’s, will be retrofit with new turbines, the station’s six generating units and to rehabilitate the building, auxiliary electrical and mechanical systems, intake and spillway gates.

The project underscores Hydro-Québec’s mandate in 2019: celebrating the past, investing for the future, and an unwavering focus on generating clean and renewable energy.

“This work will allow the generating station to contribute to meeting Québec’s energy needs for the next 50 years while remaining profitable,” says Murray, “and highlights one of the many advantages hydropower has to offer: reliable, continuous energy generation over the long term.”

“Hydro-Québec currently generates 99.8 per cent clean energy,” says Murray. “But 99.8 per cent is still not good enough for us.”

Hydro-Québec is uniquely positioned to be part of the solution to the major challenges North America faces in reducing GHG emissions and ensuring a secure supply of electricity. Québec hydropower offers a double advantage to markets outside the province: reduced greenhouse gas emissions and very stable prices.

Murray says Hydro-Québec has a great opportunity to export and to help other regions meet their carbon reduction targets. With an export capability of 8,200 MW, Hydro-Québec has been selling clean, reliable and competitively-priced electricity into wholesale markets in northeastern North America (through its wholly owned subsidiary HQUS) for two decades.

“ Our mandate is to generate and produce energy for the Québec province at the lowest possible price” says Murray. “Overall, delivering electricity to our peers in Ontario, New Brunswick, New England, and New York is a great possibility for us as a province and also for these sectors to reduce their carbon footprint.” In fact, Hydro-Québec reduces these carbon footprints of the North east coast to the equivalent of taking 2 million vehicles off the road each year.

For 75 years, Hydro-Québec has made forward-looking choices benefiting all Quebecers. These choices have made it a leader in clean energy, recognized worldwide by its peers.

When reflecting on 75 years, Murray says its an “important milestone” in Québec history. “We go back to 1944 where there was an initiative by the government to take control of our journey regarding energy. The objective was to rationalize all energy companies under one entity, which led us down the path to where we are today: Hydro-Québec is one of the largest producers of clean energy on the planet, offering its customers the lowest electricity rates in North America, while paying a dividend of over $2 billion to the Québec government each year.

Today, the energy landscape is changing rapidly. Digital technologies and diversification are the order of the day. Hydro-Québec is developing and testing technologies such as energy storage systems, customer generation and home automation.
Hydro Quebec’s 19,500 employees are the backbone to the corporation’s success, says Murray. Scientists, technicians, engineers and specialists work diligently to support Hydro-Québec in every facet of its operations, from electricity generation to consumption. “It’s amazing to see the experts we have on the engineering and project teams,” says Murray. “They have developed and deployed new technology to streamline everything about Hydro-Québec to help us achieve our vision of low-cost energy.”

Technological innovation is an integral part of Hydro-Québec ’s strategies. For four decades, the Institut de recherche d’Hydro-Québec (IREQ) was propelling Hydro-Québec’s optimization. Hydro-Québec can also be credited with Montréal region receiving recognition as the best location in the world to set up a data center. Since Hydro-Québec announced a push to attract data centers in 2016, there have been more than 40 established in Québec.

“We are in an energy transition as we speak,” says Murray. Hydro-Québec is committed to leveraging the substantial natural resources in the province and its legacy for clean and renewable energy. “It’s about taking the legacy that we have built into the next 75 years,” he says. “The energy sector at a very exciting place.” Murray says while there are still many unknowns as to how the world will generate and consume energy, one thing is for sure: “The planet is talking to us. It’s a great responsibility we have today as leaders in the energy sector to take concrete actions and take bold action and take these concerns for the environment into something that is going to be a winner for everyone.”