Electricity in Quebec

Quebec is Canada's powerhouse, generating a third of the country's electricity and exporting colossal surpluses to Ontario, the Maritimes and the U.S.
Electricty rates in Quebec are the lowest in the country and 97 per cent of its power comes from hydroelectric dams. The province generates a large surplus and exports power to Ontario, the Maritimes and the U.S. (iStock)


Avg. price: 6.9¢/kWh (lowest among provinces)

2010 capacity: 47,013 MW

2020 forecast capacity: 52,102 MW

Peak use (2011 forecast): 36,945 MW

Cross-border trade: Exports 17,580 gWh (earns $1.04 billion)   

GHG intensity rank: 10th (lowest)

GHG emissions goal: meet Kyoto targets (6% below 1990 levels) by 2012; 20% below 1990 levels by 2020

Green targets: 4,000 MW of wind power by 2015

Quebec is Canada's powerhouse, generating a third of the country's electricity and exporting colossal surpluses  to Ontario, the Maritimes and the U.S. The vast majority of Quebec's electrons — about 97 per cent — come from emission-free hydroelectricity, though all that generation is not without controversy. About a third of the province's capacity is from hydro installations near James Bay that upended the local environment and engendered a dispute with the area's Cree population.

Do you want to know how much you'll be paying for electricity in 2020? Try the provincial cost calculator.

By some estimates, Quebec will have maxed out its hydro power potential by 2020, coupled with forecast peak demand growth of 0.9 per cent annually over the next decade. That's why the province is investing heavily in renewable sources like wind power, but also in the refurbishment of its Gentilly-2 nuclear generator in Trois-Rivières.

The province can also bring online a 550-megawatt gas-fired  plant that was built in 2006, but which has remained dormant for the past three years amid Hydro-Québec's surfeit of generating capacity.

Electricity rates in the province are the lowest in the country, and Hydro-Québec is proposing to keep it that way for the immediate future, with a planned rate freeze through the end of 2012. But beyond that, there will be upward pressure on prices. The utility's four hydro projects on the Romaine River, set to start coming online in 2014, are forecast to generate power at a cost of about 6.4 cents per kilowatt hour — more than three times the average price of the province's currently installed hydro capacity. And Hydro-Québec projects that new supplies acquired after 2015 will cost upward of 15¢/kWh. Those higher rates will invariably tamp down Quebec's per capita electricity consumption, which a C.D. Howe Institute study says is the highest in the world.