Quebecers break record for electricity consumption as cold snap grips province

With temperatures dipping to almost –38 C in some parts of the province, Quebecers were using more hydro-electricity than ever before. Hydro-Québec, the provincial utility, also had to export power to customers in Ontario and the U.S.

Hydro-Québec says home heating accounted for half the record power use

The icy St. Lawrence River near Lévis, Que. Cold temperatures have meant Quebecers are using more hydro-electric power. (Submitted by Pierre LaRue)

The cold snap that has gripped Quebec may not have shattered temperature records but it has set new ones for energy consumption.

Residents of Quebec City awoke to a crisp –29.6 C. It was slightly milder in Montreal, a mere –25 C.

The record lows for this date were set decades ago, –33.9 C in Quebec City and –29.4 C in Montreal. But back then, energy demand was lower too.

By 8 a.m. Tuesday, Hydro-Québec had registered a new record for power consumption in the province: 39,900 megawatts. The previous record of slightly more than 39,000 MW was set in January 2014.

"The cold plays an important role," said Hydro-Québec spokesman Cendrix Bouchard. "We have to heat our homes and heating represents about half of the winter consumption."

Hydro-Québec provides energy not only to Quebecers. It also has export contracts with Ontario and the U.S. and must honour them. Today it exported 2,000 MW to those two jurisdictions.

Conserving energy

Hydro-Québec has signed up 160,000 clients to a flexible billing plan that allows them to pay less for energy — as long as they use it during non-peak periods.

Some ski hills also reduced their opening hours, or closed down completely Tuesday. And Quebec's energy regulator, the Régie de l'énergie forces crypto-currency mining operations to shut down on peak-demand days.

Hydro-Québec says the highest consumption periods are between 6 a.m.-9 a.m. and 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

with files from Radio-Canada