The CAQ does not close the door to financing the expansion of the gas network

This text is taken from the Courrier de la Planète of September 27, 2022. To subscribe, click here.

If re-elected on October 3, the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) could continue to provide funding for the expansion of the gas network, but limiting itself to “microgrid” projects. Since 2018, more than $80 million in public funding has been awarded to natural gas grid connection projects.

The duty asked the five main parties in the election campaign if they intended to maintain public financial support for these expansion projects, which facilitate the use of a fossil fuel source. We also asked them if they consider natural gas to be a “transitional energy”, as some proponents of it claim.

The CAQ indicated that “the type of project most likely to materialize is microgrids, when a pipe is built over a few hundred meters or only a few kilometres. For example, to connect customers inside an industrial park when electricity is not a suitable source of energy for their activities”.

However, the outgoing government considers it “rather unlikely that new large-scale extensions of the natural gas distribution network will see the light of day in the coming years”.

“The natural gas consumed here is not considered a transition energy, in a context where our electricity is already clean. On the other hand, we will continue to consume gas in the coming years”, in particular for “the security of our electricity supplies” during periods of peak demand, specifies the CAQ.

Since 2018, more than $80 million in public funds have been spent to finance the expansion of the gas network, according to data provided by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources.

These projects include the extension of a gas pipeline to Montmagny, which received « financial assistance » of $47 million, and that of the gas network in the Richmond industrial park, which received $10.6 million. . For the connection of the municipality of Sainte-Clotilde and « the increase in the capacity of the existing network » in the city of Saint-Rémi, both located in Montérégie, the government injected 17.4 million dollars.

Refusal from three parties

The Quebec Liberal Party, for its part, was categorical: if elected, it does not intend to “pay a single public dollar” to support the extension of the gas pipeline network in the province.

However, the Liberals claim that natural gas produces less greenhouse gases than other « fossil fuels », and also that « the planet will not be able to live without it until [d’autres solutions] are able to replace them in the energy balance”.

In this context, the formation directed by Dominique Anglade wishes to “support Énergir in its decarbonization efforts”, in particular thanks to “research funds” to evaluate the transport of hydrogen in its network.

For Québec solidaire, natural gas “is not an energy of the future”. The party therefore wishes to “limit” from 2035 “the use of fossil energy in industries for all electrifiable uses and processes, or for which a mature clean technology exists”. The party also proposes « to prohibit the use of natural gas in all buildings in 2035 ». Solidarity also opposes the expansion of the gas pipeline network.

The Parti Québécois does not intend to finance the expansion of the network either. « In fact, we will prohibit the replacement of existing natural gas systems with new ones by 2030 and will also prohibit, for all new construction, the use of fossil fuels and the connection to the natural gas network », specifies the party. sovereigntist. Rather, he wants to promote “energy saving and better management of peaks” in demand.

The Conservative Party of Quebec sent us back to its electoral platform. This specifies in particular that the formation of Éric Duhaime wishes to launch the exploitation of shale gas. In interview at Everybody talks about it Sunday, Mr. Duhaime recalled that Quebec imports all the gas it consumes.

The natural gas consumed in Quebec is also largely gas exploited by fracturing, a technology that is prohibited here. Over the next few years, this so-called “unconventional” gas will largely dominate the market.

Active «

Holder of a chair in management of the energy sector at HEC Montréal, Pierre-Olivier Pineau considers that it is « undesirable » to finance new connections, « in a context of energy transition where the consumption of gas from fossil sources will have to be nil or close to nil within 30 years”.

However, he points out that some projects could be relevant on a “transitional” basis, to allow an industry to reduce its emissions. In other cases, the use of renewable natural gas (for example that produced by biomethanation) could justify such an extension. In this context, he considers that the distribution network constitutes an interesting “asset” for Quebec.

Énergir argues for its part that its network “has reached maturity” and that the time has now come to plan “a decrease in fossil natural gas in favor of renewable energies”. By 2030, “at least 10%” of the gas marketed will be renewable, we are assured.

The company also says it wants to « better target the markets in which it is relevant to continue to consume natural gas », while recalling that « several municipalities, companies and groups are still asking us for access to natural gas ».

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