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Electrifying Quebec’s economy will require natural gas: MEI

Research paper contends there's not enough hydro capacity with power being used for heating.

May 13, 2020   by PLANT STAFF

MONTREAL — Is natural gas a realistic solution for Quebec’s energy requirements? The Montreal Economic Institute thinks so.

The Montreal think tank’s research paper, Energy in Quebec: What Role for Natural Gas in the Context of Electrification? tackles the practicality of electrifying the provinces entire economy, particularly if there is capacity to power transportation. It presents the province’s energy profile, quantifies its hydroelectric potential, and identifies natural gas as key.

“Quebecers sometimes seem to believe that electricity is king in Quebec, but the numbers clearly indicate the opposite,” said Jean Michaud, engineer and co-author of the research paper.

Currently, fossil fuels account for most (56%) of Quebec’s energy consumption, while electricity represents 36%. He said in principle, Hydro-Québec’s production capacity may be sufficient for the electrification of transportation in periods of low energy demand, but “unthinkable” during peak periods.

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Quebec is particular in that it uses electricity rather than natural gas for heating. The mathematical reality is that much too high a percentage of Hydro-Québec’s capacity is already in use during peak periods for people to be able to charge their cars at the same time,” Michaud said.

The authors contend the 5.4 million electric personal vehicles hypothetically circulating on Quebec roads would require around 37,350 megawatts of electricity just to recharge each day. That’s  almost as much as the province’s peak demand in winter.

Alternatives such as solar or geothermal power as energy sources are not currently efficient, reliable or affordable enough, says Germain Belzile, senior fellow at the MEI and co-author of the publication.

The current price of natural gas makes its development unattractive now, but he said it’s still a realistic alternative.

Quebec’s recoverable natural gas reserves would be able to meet our needs for at least the next 40 years, and we would only need a limited number of new gas pipelines,” he said.