Quebec Interest in Wind Power Projects Back on the Horizon

August 25, 2020

Wind power suppliers to Hydro-Quebec (HQ) have an installed capacity of 3,667 MW with another 54 MW planned. Most of this capacity was commissioned less than 10 years ago. Wind power is a good complement to hydroelectricity as hydro can quickly take over electricity production when wind power facilities do not have sufficient wind.

After HQ’s call for tenders on wind power in 2013, it was generally thought that it would be some time before the province considered any major additional wind power projects. HQ had substantial electricity surpluses and the kWh price for wind power remained high.

Opposition politicians, including François Legault, now Premier of Quebec, and many in the media were strongly critical of HQ’s wind power program, criticism which resonated with the public at large.

These demand and price concerns caused Premier Legault to ice the $600 million Apuiat project shortly after coming into power in October 2018. The Apuiat project is a 200 MW wind power project proposed by the Innu communities of Quebec. It is to be located about 40 km from Port Cartier and intended to provide the Innu Nation with a common economic project, something akin to the successful 149.25 MW Mesgi’g Ugju’s’n wind power farm co-developed by the three communities of the Mi’gmaq Nation in Quebec and Innergex. The Mesgi’g Ugju’s’n Project was formally awarded in 2014 and completed in December 2016.

At the time of the suspension of the Apuiat project, Premier Legault had promised that should HQ resume wind power purchases, the Apuiat project would be the first to be considered.

On July 15, 2020, le Soleil reported that a number of Quebec local governments as well as the Maliseet First Nation would propose to the Quebec government a new 1,200 MW wind farm to be built in the Eastern part of Quebec. The farm is inspired by the Nicolas-Riou project, a 224.25 MW wind power project commissioned in January 2018 and developed by many of the proponents for the new project.

Also on July 15, Premier Legault was quoted by Radio Canada as saying that the price of wind power had become attractive at about 6 cents per kWh and that the next power projects in Quebec would likely be in wind power.

On July 17, Radio Canada quoted Premier Legault’s confirmation that the Apuiat Project would be first in line when considering new wind power projects.

While Premier Legault appears to have changed his mind on wind power, he did caution that two conditions precedent would have to be satisfied:

  1. HQ would need to reduce its large surpluses either through increased exports (e.g., to Massachusetts via Maine) or new Quebec endeavours (e.g., greenhouse agriculture); and
  2. HQ’s forecasts would have to show increased electricity demand.

In other words, there is no intention to authorize new projects unless there is a clearly demonstrated need therefor.

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