Prime Minister Francois Legault insisted Thursday on the importance of hydroelectric dams to meet energy needs as he opened the Romain complex, started by his predecessor Jean Charest, whose courage he praised.
Mr. Legault traveled to the north coast to mark the completion of the Hydro-Québec installation, whose four power plants are located on the Romaine River near Havre-Saint-Pierre, generating approximately 1,550 MW.
“For me, this is a model to follow for possible future projects,” he announced at a press conference.
During last year’s election campaign, Mr. Legault expressed his desire to resume construction of hydroelectric dams to meet electricity demand, which should exceed Hydro-Québec’s supply from 2027. Hydro-Québec is currently conducting preliminary analyses. Petit Mecatina River, also on the north bank.
Mr Legault confirmed on Thursday that improving energy efficiency and installing wind turbines would not be enough to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2050 under international agreements – and meet the electricity needs of businesses. “Wind power is intermittent, so it is not enough. So, the heart of our options, and the best option, remains hydropower. »
Wind power is intermittent, so it is not enough
Economy and Energy Minister, Pierre Fitzgibbon, for his part emphasized the sustainability of hydropower generation. “To balance wind power generation, there is nothing better than hydroelectric dams,” he noted.
In addition to increasing wind power production, Hydro-Québec wants to install new, more efficient turbine-generators at its existing power stations.
The Courage of Jean Charest
Mr. Legault confirmed that the construction of dams will continue to be a factor among other things. The outcome of negotiations with Newfoundland and Labrador to renew the supply contract with the Churchill Falls Power Station continues to be an important variable in the equation.
Faced with the challenges of social acceptability of the new dam, Mr. Legault confirmed that no project is perfect. “When you start big projects, there are always negative reactions,” he said.
During the press briefing after the ceremony, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to salute the initiative of his predecessor, Jean Charest, whom he invited to participate in the inauguration of the complex.
“It was important for me to invite Jean Charest, who boldly launched the Romain project in 2009, which was widely criticized. But I still think hydropower is the best option,” he said.
Mr. Charest appreciated Mr. Legault and the ministers present for their kind words towards him. “I was pleasantly surprised, I am grateful to Prime Minister Legault,” he said.
First Nations and Royalties
Mr Legault did not take issue with some indigenous communities’ reluctance to build a new dam on the north bank if the Petit Mekatina project went ahead. “Innu chiefs are in favor of it while others are against it. There is work to be done, but it is too early to answer the question. It is a file under analysis,” he said.
At the inauguration, the leader of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit, Jean-Charles Piétacho, emphasized the importance of the new principles for royalties. “I know how to count. We count in crores not millions. If we want to discuss, it will happen,” he stated.
Subsequently, Michel Sabia, CEO of Hydro-Québec along with Mr. Legault, raised the possibility of partnerships that would allow communities to own assets and participate in the management of energy production operations.
“Social Discourse” in Focus
Prime Minister Legault confirmed that Hydro-Québec will present a revised strategic plan in early November, which will form the basis of a “social debate” on the choices to be made in terms of energy. A discussion on this document will be held in the Parliamentary Committee.
Mr. Sabia stated that this is the first step in a more comprehensive plan. “The presentation of this plan is the beginning of a dialogue with us and the government. Then we come to this conversation about details. »
In this regard, nuclear energy is still one of the subjects being studied, although Prime Minister Legault took care to emphasize its speculative nature. “Nuclear energy currently lacks social acceptance in Quebec. [Mais] It is important that Hydro-Québec puts all possibilities on the table,” he summed up.