Quebec’s rising energy costs aren’t driven by wind power: wind industry
October 27, 2014
Yes, there’s an energy surplus in Quebec these days. Yes, export markets are weak for producers like Hydro-Québec. And yes, production prices are climbing.
“But you build power generation projects today for tomorrow,” said Jean-François Nolet, vice president of policy and government affairs for the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).
Nolet acknowledged that wind power has been pummeled in the Quebec media recently for contributing to Hydro-Québec’s large surplus and the utility’s request for a significant rate hike — 3.9 per cent starting on April 1.
“We’re accused of being expensive and unnecessary,” said Nolet. “But you have to keep things in perspective. We need to make sure that we are not in an (energy) deficit — ever. No jurisdiction ever wants to be in that position.”
“The James Bay project (in the 1960s and 1970s) was also called way too expensive. Now it’s one of Quebec’s best assets.”
And blaming wind power for the rising costs of electric bills makes no sense, said CanWEA president Robert Hornung.
Costs would rise even more without it, said in an interview Thursday.
“The debate in Quebec about the extent to which wind generation has been increasing consumer bills … is fundamentally missing the point.”
Things are going up because you’re building new things. Whether or not it’s wind, your bills would still be going up.” – CanWEA president Robert Hornung
“We argue that we’re adding new generation to the (Quebec) grid — and that if it wasn’t wind, if you added something else to that grid, (bills) would go up even more,” Hornung said from Ottawa. “Because every source of new generation is more expensive than heritage generation — including hydro.”
Paying for the massive La Romaine hydroelectric project, for example, will boost consumption costs significantly for Quebecers, Hornung said.
“Things are going up because you’re building new things. Whether or not it’s wind, your bills would still be going up.”
Jean-Thomas Bernard agrees. The professor of energy policy at the University of Ottawa said that “La Romaine and the other new sites in Quebec are expensive. There’s no longer a big difference between wind and hydroelectric generation. The average cost for La Romaine, for instance, you’re talking about 8 or 9 cents per kilowatt hour.”
Hydro-Québec buys wind power from various producers at an average price of 10.3 cents per kilowatt hour, said Marie-Élaine Deveault, a Hydro-Québec spokeswoman.
Production of one kilowatt hour of electricity costs Hydro-Québec 1.98 cents, she noted. But the utility then blends the various rates and sets its prices for consumers.
Bernard is a critic of the energy oversupply, but aiming criticism at the wind industry is misdirected, he said. He blames Quebec for mandating the inclusion of alternative energy — mostly wind so far — unnecessarily.
“The first thing you do in a situation of oversupply is stop supplying. And that’s not what Quebec is doing.”
Clean energy like wind power is desirable, he added.
“But what does it cost to be clean?”
He agreed that other renewable energies — solar, biomass, nuclear — would be far more expensive.
But the boom in natural gas in the U.S. has driven down prices “enormously,” he noted, which makes it far more attractive than wind — and is rendering the export markets weak.
The Western Climate Initiative, a carbon market to which Quebec has signed on, takes effect on Jan. 1 and the inroads made by natural gas “will not make wind power any more competitive,” said Bernard. “And anyway, (Hydro-Québec) produces practically no power with fossil fuels.”
CanWEA is holding its three-day 30th annual conference in Montreal starting Monday with 1,500 delegates and over 100 worldwide companies attending.
Hornung said that discussion will focus on accelerating the shift to cleaner and sustainable power sources across Canada.
Courtesy: Montreal Gazette