Quebec’s Energy Policy

Québec has incredible renewable energy resources, especially hydroelectric and wind power. 

Renewable energy will give Quebec greater energy independence within North America.


1. 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. So it is not surprising that Quebec is trying to act decisively on energy policy issues with regards to renewable energy.

2. Canada’s energy policy is organized in a decentralized way in part because of its geography and to some extend its economic policy orientation, with a more liberal-leaning Western Canada, and Quebec’s more social stance.

Quebec’s hydropower plants were nationalized which partly reflects a different outlook on energy policy with respect to other provinces in Canada. From the 1960s onwards, additional capacity was built because Quebec’s electricity requirements increased significantly which was also related to strong population growth in this region during that time.

Energy policy can be quite imprecise in its predictions. It is both an art and a science. After all, in energy policy we try to balance the demand for electricity with the supply of electricity. To make an accurate forecast, we look decades ahead. The measures Quebec has taken to supply itself with hydropower have resulted in an oversupply of electricity. Hydropower capacities have been over-expanded. Quebec began exporting its surplus electricity capacity to the United States in 1990’s.

3. 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. It is in Quebec’s own interest to introduce these climate policy measures due to a general oversupply of hydropower, which is the most suited source of renewable energy in this region.

4. 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 with the energy policy of US states such as California. Like California, Quebec relies heavily on renewable energy, particularly hydropower. Quebec has set itself the goal of significantly increasing the share of renewable energies. However, hydropower already accounts for a considerable proportion of primary energy consumption. However, hydropower already accounts for a considerable proportion of primary energy consumption. Quebec has already invested heavily in hydropower. Now Quebec could add other renewable energies, including offshore wind power.

But here the similarities end. Because of its northern latitude, Quebec has the incentive to invest in heat recovery. In California it makes more sense to invest in cooling systems. Biomass heating with biogas as a by-product in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant seems particularly promising in the case of Quebec. This is also because Quebec has a large forestry sector. 

5. Potential divergence in energy policy goals between Quebec and Alberta.

Alberta has a real incentive to invest in hydrocarbon energy resources. Given its abundant oil sands resources, Alberta is unlikely to shift its focus to fossil fuel production in the foreseeable future. Although it is likely that Alberta will add solar energy to its existing energy mix, this will not change the overall picture of Alberta’s energy industry. This is in contrast to Quebec’s energy system, which relies heavily on renewables and has been very successful in pursuing its own energy strategy. This shows that Canada as a whole has a diverse energy system that meets the energy needs of each province.

Many thanks for the shared interest in the energy world!

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