The pioneering spirit of the former conquerors that found a new home in the eastern portion of North America, eventually settled on the Canadian Shield, continues to shape Quebec’s energy policy to this day; hydropower forms the basis of Quebec’s electricity supply.
The pioneering spirit of the former explorers of the new world, a vast space of seemingly unlimited energy and resource wealth, continues to shape Quebec’s energy policy to this day. The proximity to untouched nature, a wilderness that reaches far into the Arctic, leads to a preference for renewable energies. The advantages of renewable energy sources are obvious: Quebec has an enormous potential of hydroelectric power for electricity production. A large part of the electricity is carried over long distances to the industrial and commercial heart of the nation, the Saint Lawrence River and Montreal, the cosmopolitan centre of Canada’s most influential French-speaking province, which is a political entity in its own right. So it is not surprising that Quebec is trying to act self-determined on energy policy issues.
A long-lasting conflict between the mostly liberal English-speaking provinces of Canada and the French-speaking Quebec region has drawn deep rifts at the Canadian energy policy level. Canada’s energy policy is organized in a decentralized manner because of its economic policy orientation, an economic liberal leaning in western Canada, and Quebec’s reactionary economic stance.
Quebec, as in other economic policy issues, found itself in a dilemma as to how best to shape economic policy measures in relation to the energy sector. Just as the French motherland has been decisive for Quebec’s economic policy to this day, a far-reaching nationalization of privately owned assets came closest to the long-term economic policy goals in energy policy. Quebec’s hydropower plants, once owned by the powerful Montreal Light, Heat and Power Company, were nationalized. This met with little approval from the English-speaking Canadian provinces. From the 1960s onwards, additional capacities were built because Quebec’s electricity requirements increased significantly.
Energy policy is often inaccurate in its predictions, it is both an art and a science to balance the demand for electricity with the supply over decades. In relation to the measures Quebec took to supply itself with hydroelectric power, the construction of additional hydroelectric capacity led to an oversupply of electricity. The now state-owned Hydro-Québec Group began exporting its excess electricity capacity to the United States in 1997.
The pioneering spirit and inherent optimism of tackling problems, the vastness and abundance of nature in the Canadian East, Quebec’s penchant for hydroelectric power as a means of energy policy transformation, lead Quebec to meet the climate goals of the Paris Accord of 2015.
Quebec is largely in agreement with the English-speaking provinces in the area of climate policy and the derivation of measures for the Canadian energy industry. It is in Quebec’s own interest to introduce these climate policy measures due to an oversupply of hydropower, the most suitable source of renewable energy.
Quebec’s energy policy shows strong similarities to the energy policies of some US states, particularly California.
What is particularly fascinating is that Quebec’s energy policy has similarities to the energy policies of US states such as California, which like Quebec rely heavily on hydropower, and have set themselves the goal of significantly increasing the share of renewable energies.