Hydro-Quebec silence on rivers that could be targeted for dam construction

This text is taken from the Courrier de la Planète of October 25, 2022. To subscribe, click here.

Prime Minister François Legault promised during the election campaign to carry out « the largest ecological project in the history of Quebec » by launching the construction of new hydroelectric dams. Which rivers could be targeted? Impossible to know. In a response to a freedom of information request from The dutyHydro-Québec claims that this data is “confidential”.

In order to meet the demand from companies that would choose Quebec because of its « clean energy » and the imperatives of the energy transition, including the electrification of transportation, Mr. Legault insisted in the campaign on the need to increase the hydroelectricity production over the next few years.

In the most recent version of its strategic plan, Hydro-Québec also estimates that it will be necessary to add approximately 100 terawatt hours (TWh) of new energies in Québec by 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality objectives. « That’s more than half of our annual production capacity, » says the state-owned company’s 2022-2026 plan.

To increase production, we first rely on an increase in wind production, but the door is not closed to a new dam project. At the time of the announcement of the CAQ promise, Hydro-Québec had also indicated to the To have to that it had « carried out assessments in the past to document the hydroelectric potential at various locations in Quebec », but without giving further details.

The most recent strategic plan is also lacking in detail. The word “dam” appears there only once, but the document specifies the will to “update the evaluation of the residual hydroelectric potential of Quebec” and mentions “the development of new works”.

Previously, in the 2009-2013 strategic plan, there was a clear mention of a “portfolio of potential hydroelectric projects”. “For most of these projects, technical and environmental studies will be carried out, as well as discussions with the communities and indigenous communities concerned. The implementation schedules will take into account the conditions of the electricity market, both in Quebec and in neighboring provinces and states,” the document reads.

The Magpie and Petit Mécatina rivers were mentioned for the development of the largest projects. But since then, Innu and elected officials from the North Shore have expressed their rejection of any project in the years to come on the Magpie River.


The duty therefore sent the Crown corporation an access to information request under the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information. This request concerned the document(s) « produced by Hydro-Québec or a [sous-traitant] concerning rivers with potential for hydroelectric development in Quebec for the period 2012-2022”.

“We cannot provide you with the requested documents because they contain technical and commercial information that we treat confidentially,” replied Hydro-Québec, citing four articles of the legislation to justify its refusal.

We also requested a copy « of email exchanges from 2018 to 2022 between Hydro-Québec, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, or the Minister’s office, « about the possibility of building one or more new dams in Quebec « . The Crown corporation indicated that it had no exchange of emails on this subject.

Is Hydro-Québec able to specify which rivers have been analyzed and which have potential for a large dam project? “It is much too early to announce on which river, or even in which region, this possible next project will be carried out! Currently, we are updating our studies on rivers that have significant hydroelectric potential,” the communications department said on Monday.

Hydro-Québec specified that, to meet growing demand, it intends to “intensify” efforts “in energy efficiency”, “increase wind production” and the power of “existing power stations”, but also “evaluate the sites which present the best potential for the development of hydroelectric capacity”.

Any new hydroelectric dam project in Quebec risks leading to a federal-provincial standoff, revealed The duty in September. Such a structure would in fact be subject to a federal environmental assessment, despite the Quebec impact analysis process.

To see in video

(function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/fr_CA/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));


Back to top button