Montréal, November 6, 2015
Québec hydropower: clean and reliable energy
Hydro-Québec strongly objects to the erroneous information published by the Sierra Club in its recent letter (Our Turn: State doesn’t need Northern Pass, October 31, 2015). New Hampshire citizens have the right to know the facts about hydropower, not a list of misleading statements.
Québec hydropower: a clean energy option for New England
Sierra Club misinterprets the results of several scientific studies on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from reservoirs, asserting that emissions from hydropower can be as much as 70% of the levels of GHGs resulting from natural gas generation. This is completely false. Hydropower power emissions are 50 times less than those from natural gas generation!
These scientific studies, based on a life-cycle analysis, showed that Québec hydropower is one of the lowest GHG emitting electricity generating options. Québec hydropower emissions are:
- Similar to wind energy
- 5 times less than photovoltaic solar
- 70 times less than coal.
When reservoirs are created, a river landscape is transformed into a lake landscape. Emissions from reservoir creation do increase in the first years but then decrease to the level of surrounding waterways within a maximum of 10 years. A hydropower generating station in Québec is built to produce electricity for at least 100 years, serving generations in a sustainable manner.
What Sierra Club fails to mention is that thanks to imports of clean hydropower from Québec, emissions of greenhouse gases are avoided. In 2014, thanks to imports from Hydro-Québec, 6.2 million metric tons of GHGs were avoided – the equivalent of the emissions of 1.6 million vehicles.
A number of other false statements are made in this letter. Here are the real facts:
- Boreal reservoirs are not a source of methane because the water is cold and well-oxygenated.
- Hydro-Québec maintains respectful relations with First Nations communities in Québec. Since 1975, about 30 agreements with Aboriginal nations and communities have been signed to enable communities to play an active role in the projects, to participate in environmental follow-up programs and to benefit from economic spinoffs.
- Increased mercury levels after reservoir creation is a well known and temporary phenomenon. No cases of mercury intoxication related to fish consumption have ever been reported in Québec.
Northern Pass is a good project for New Hampshire and for all of New England
Further increasing current import levels of Québec hydropower would bring undeniable benefits to the entire region, including:
- A new source of clean energy to contribute to meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets
- A non gas source in a market that increasingly relies on natural gas for power production
- Reductions in the use of coal and oil plants during summer and winter peak periods
- A stably priced source of electricity that will have a positive impact on wholesale prices in the region.
New England has some of the most ambitious climate goals on the continent. To meet these goals, all renewable energy sources are needed - not one renewable resource rather than another. Hydropower is a flexible and controllable source of energy that can actually facilitate the development of intermittent resources such as wind and solar. To secure delivery of more hydropower into New England, at those moments when the region needs it the most, both suppliers and buyers have to make long-term commitments to ensure that the necessary electricity transmission infrastructure can be built.
Better integration of the New England and Québec grids is beneficial for both regions, and will increase the reliability of both electricity grids. New England currently has needs that Hydro-Québec can meet with its clean and reliable energy, developed with respect for the environment and local communities. For decades, New England has been purchasing electricity from Hydro-Québec and it is certainly to its advantage to continue taking advantage of its proximity to the largest generator of renewable energy in North America.