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Montréal, February 17, 2012

Press Release

Response to Conservation Law FoundationQuébec hydropower: long-term climate benefits

A study prepared for the Conservation Law Foundation by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., a private consulting firm, confirms that large-scale hydropower emits far less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, however, by claiming that reservoir hydro emission ranges are likely higher than those for at least some other renewable options, Synapse’s analysis contains a basic flaw by attempting to cherry-pick data from a recent study on emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir in Québec.

Synapse incorrectly assumes that emissions from the Eastmain 1 reservoir would average 158,000 tons of CO2e per year on a long-term basis over a period of 100 years. This figure is in fact the amount of emissions per TWh generated, but only referring to energy generated by the Eastmain-1 generating station.

For 93 of the 100 years in question, beginning in 2012, water from the Eastmain 1 reservoir will also run turbines at the Eastmain-1-A generating station, bringing total annual energy output up to 6.7 TWh. The corresponding GHG emissions would thus be approximately 54 tons CO2 equivalent per GWh.

Moreover, GHG emissions vary among generating station depending, among other factors, on the size of the reservoir and the energy generated. It is therefore inaccurate to extrapolate the findings related to a single generating station and apply these values to an entire hydropower production fleet. The GHG emissions from the energy generated by Hydro-Québec’s entire production fleet, composed of 60 generating stations of which more than two-thirds are run-of-the-river installations, average 10-20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per GWh.

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
  • about 100 times less than those from a coal-fired plant.

In addition to improving air quality – hydropower generation produces none of the pollutants responsible for acid rain and smog – exporting this clean, reliable source of electricity avoided the emission of 41 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in North America between 2008 and 2010. That’s roughly equal to the annual emissions from about 10 million vehicles.

The major environmental challenge facing North America is to replace coal to generate power and oil used in transportation. By supplying neighboring markets, notably in New England, with renewable, competitively priced and reliable energy, Hydro-Québec contributes to the fight against climate change and air pollution.

Alain Tremblay, M.Sc., Ph.D.
Environment Advisor
Hydro-Québec Production

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