My Turn: Hydro-Québec power is competitive, clean
Hydro-Québec strongly objects to the erroneous information published by the Conservation Law Foundation in its July 19 letter to the Concord Monitor, signed by Christophe Courchesne.
CLF claims that the generation and delivery of Hydro-Québec hydropower to the New England market will cost New England an additional $800 million per year, and that the cost of Hydro-Québec electricity would be 15.2 cents per kilowatt hour. However, it is impossible for CLF to estimate any supplier’s cost or bid price because of the complexity and risk of the marketplace and because energy infrastructure is highly site-specific. This is especially true for a supplier like Hydro-Québec, which is connected to four North American electricity markets.
The reality is that New England is considering a process in which Québec hydropower would, for the first time, compete in an open solicitation with other sources of clean energy. Like other suppliers, Hydro-Québec would establish its bid price based on a range of factors in the New England and neighboring energy marketplaces. Importantly, the proposed New England process does not include a requirement to purchase energy, so distribution companies operating in New England would not be obligated to accept bids that are not competitive with respect to other sources of energy and do not offer a net benefit to New England.
Québec hydropower is competitive with other sources of electricity, including other sources of clean energy, offers an alternative to the fossil fuel price volatility faced by New England, and contributes to the region’s energy security. Hydro-Québec welcomes the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with other sources of clean energy as part of an evaluation to determine which resource is best for New England.
CLF asserts that hydropower greenhouse gas emissions are much higher than they actually are. They do so by cherry-picking data contained in a scientific study on emissions from a recently created reservoir in Québec. Hydro-Québec has informed CLF of their erroneous comprehension of its study on several occasions, but CLF continues to present New England stakeholders with its flawed conclusions.
What that study really indicates is that hydropower is one of the lowest-emission generating options per kilowatt hour produced. The facts on hydropower emissions, using a life-cycle analysis approach over a period of 100 years, are actually quite simple. Québec hydropower emissions are: similar to those from wind power, only a quarter of those from photovoltaic solar facilities, 40 times less than those from a gas-fired power plant and about 100 times less than those from a coal-fired plant. This is good news for New England. Over the last five years, thanks to Hydro-Québec’s net exports of electricity, the emission of over 62 million metric tons of GHGs was avoided in North America. That’s the equivalent of the annual emissions from about 15.5 million vehicles.
In Québec, electricity consumption peaks during the winter months, while in New England, it peaks during the summer months. In this regard, it is true that Hydro-Québec will likely deliver higher quantities of energy to New England in the summer than in the winter. This does not mean, however, that on most winter days Hydro-Québec cannot deliver power to New England. In fact, just this past year, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 4, when Québec experienced very high consumption due to cold temperatures, Hydro-Québec was continuously exporting over 2,100 megawatts for 90 percent of the period, even though it has no contractual obligations to do so.
Significant energy exports are available from Hydro-Québec in winter, and more will be coming online in the next several years. The New England region is wise to seek ways to evaluate and, if beneficial, secure these exports in response to its growing winter reliability problems and system needs.
Hydro-Québec has a long history of supporting New England’s energy needs and would like to see hydroelectricity recognized as a part of the solution to the energy challenges facing North America. Hydro-Québec is prepared to help the New England States meet their energy goals.
(Gary Sutherland is a spokesman for Hydro-Québec.)