The Halt on Quebec’s Wind Energy Development

Coalition Avenir Québec’s (CAQ) request to stop development on new wind power production is a dangerous one. The move would stop work on wind turbines and the last two phases of the $6.5 billion La Romaine hydroelectric project.

Gerard Deltell, speaking on behalf of the CAQ, pointed to rising energy costs in the province as motivation for the decision. Last year, Hydro Quebec rates went up by 4.3% and are expected to increase by another 3.9% in 2015. Hydro-Quebec has placed some of the blame on Quebec’s wind energy purchases.

Considered the leading province in cheap energy production, Quebec has an estimated energy surplus of more than 30 terawatt hours, enough energy for nearly half of the province’s households. The CAQ argument goes that if the province cuts new production on sustainable energy projects, it would save residents money.

Why the CAQ is Wrong About Quebec’s Wind Energy

The CAQ request is an absurd way to address energy prices. In fact, the surplus they refer to only makes up 3% of the province’s energy supply, a relatively small margin which, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), provides flexibility to Quebec’s energy development.

It also ignores that a great deal of the trouble with prices comes from problems with exports, not from new development. The unexpected success of fracking for shale gas and the world’s economic struggle lowered prices for exporting energy in 2012. Hydro-Quebec made up the income difference by increasing its exports.

Also opposing the CAQ is the Premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois, who believes that excess electricity is a good thing for the province, as long as it can be sold and used. Historically, it has been the act of building infrastructure for growth that has made Quebec a world leader in hydropower and energy, and stopping development on cleaner energy sources now would be a mistake.

What Wind Can Offer Quebec

So far, Quebec’s wind energy industry has created 5,000 full-time jobs and attracted $10 billion in investments. Already producing 2,398.3 MW of energy a year, the government’s energy strategy lays out plans to build the infrastructure to produce 4,000 MW of wind energy by 2018. According to estimates by CanWEA, if Quebec continues development on wind projects, the economic benefits to the province would be huge, in both royalties and jobs.

If, for example, Quebec’s wind energy industry were to develop an additional 8000 MW of wind energy-generating capacity, economic benefits from royalties could climb as high as $95 million in 2025. On the same plan, as many as 91,000 jobs would be created during construction phases, with another 4,580 permanent jobs once all the turbines are online.

Much of Quebec’s wind industry growth is in parts of the province that are most in need of economic development, benefiting historically poor and isolated communities like Gaspésie.

Thankfully, the province has already gone ahead with one of the stages in development denounced by the CAQ: a 450 MW call for proposals, 300 MW of which is to come from the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Bas-Saint-Laurent regions. 54 projects applied, and the province is now reviewing the proposals before announcing new construction projects.

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