Hydro-Quebec, the Canadian provincial utility that is expected to become one of the largest suppliers of green electricity to Massachusetts, laid out a plan for decarbonizing its own economy on Thursday by generating an additional 8,000 to 9,000 megawatts of electricity capacity by 2035.
Hydroelectricity exports are not mentioned in the plan, but a spokesman for the utility said exports to Massachusetts and New York over the next 20 years are included in the calculations. Serge Abergel, the spokesman, said the 1,200 megawatt, Massachusetts-financed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line in Maine is expected to be running by December 2025 and the Champlain Hudson Power Express line to New York by May 2026.
Hydro-Quebec’s decarbonization plan is similar in concept to what Massachusetts wants to do – displace fossil fuels using green electricity. In Quebec, where businesses and residents pay some of the lowest electricity prices in the world, electricity already accounts for 42 percent of energy consumption, while 50 percent is from fossil fuels and 8 percent biofuels.
The Hydro-Quebec plan reads very differently from plans in Massachusetts, which tend to be thick, confusing, and hinge on the construction of projects outside the control of the state. By contrast, Hydro-Quebec’s plan reflects the mindset of a state-owned utility accustomed to dealing with energy challenges internally.
By 2035, according to the plan, Hydro-Quebec wants to dramatically decrease the use of electricity by residents, boosting the current savings target of 1,800 megawatts to 3,700 megawatts by covering 50 percent of the cost of heat pumps, smart thermostats, and water heater controls and shifting usage to off-peak periods.
The utility has also set a goal of 10,000 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity by 2035, an increase of 1,500 to 1,700 megawatts over earlier targets. It also wants 1,000 megawatts from solar and battery storage and 400 megawatts from converting a fossil-fuel-fired power plant to renewable natural gas. The utility is also exploring whether it makes sense to construct a new nuclear power plant or modular reactors.
Of interest to New England, Hydro-Quebec also wants to develop 4,200 megawatts of new hydro-electric generating capacity – roughly 2,000 megawatts from upgrading existing generating facilities; 1,000 megawatts from pumped storage; and 1,200 megawatts of new power generation, presumably from the Petit Mecanina site in far north Quebec.
Abergel, the Hydro-Quebec spokesman, said the utility is also very interested in a proposed transmission line linking Quebec and New England that received initial financial backing from the Biden administration last week. The line would be bi-directional, meaning power could flow both south and north depending on which area has surplus energy at the time.
Abergel thinks surplus offshore wind power from New England could be exported north at times of surplus, while Quebec could export energy south when the power is not needed for domestic consumption. Abergel said researchers at MIT are trying to model how such an arrangement would work, but the hope is the transmission line would help both regions meet energy demand without requiring the construction of any new power-generating facilities.