Extreme Cold: Hydro-Quebec Forecasts Unseen Electricity Demand

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Extreme cold: Hydro-Québec forecasts unprecedented electricity demand

State corporation anticipates peak record consumption as of Friday. “Every megawatt is going to count. »

Hydro-Quebec will have to import electricity and ask companies to reduce their consumption to meet demand.

Hydro-Québec is preparing to meet record electricity demand, above 41,000 megawatts (MW), Friday and Saturday, learned Radio-Canada. This is yet another challenge for the state-owned company, which is already at the heart of intense political debates about its governance.

According to our sources, Hydro-Québec is on the eve of facing the biggest winter peak of its existence. It's a historic spike, described a Crown corporation executive.

Environment Canada has issued special bulletins and extreme cold warnings for several regions of the Quebec. Temperatures will drop to -29°C in Montreal and -30°C in Saguenay.

“Our network will be extremely busy. »

— Hydro-Quebec executive

Internal communications we have obtained reveal that the anticipated difference between demand and generation will show a “deficit” of 4,500 MW for Friday and also for Saturday. The state-owned company therefore plans to reduce its lucrative export sales and at the same time import high-priced electricity.

Without confirming it, spokesperson Francis Labbé indicates that these are the usual tools at our disposal when, a few hours in a winter, our balance sheet is tighter.

“We will reduce our exports (while respecting our firm commitments) or may import from neighboring markets. »

— Francis Labbé, spokesperson for Hydro-Québec

In January 2022, Hydro-Québec had already broken a previous record with 40,380 MW of consumption. It had to import 2000 MW from Ontario and New York State.

The peak, during the week, corresponds to high periods of electricity consumption, in the morning between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and in the evening, between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Also, we have learned that a call has been made to certain companies to reduce their electricity consumption during critical hours. For example, the Mont Sainte-Anne ski resort announced that it would open later in the morning to respond to a power reduction call from Hydro-Québec.

The companies' contribution will save hundreds of megawatts during the peak.

The Power Demand Management program encourages SMEs, businesses and institutions to reduce power demand by their buildings during peak hours. In exchange, Hydro-Québec pays them compensation.

During the January 21, 2022 peak, Hydro-Québec asked Quebecers to reduce their consumption as much as possible. We can expect a similar call to be made, but the Crown corporation does not confirm it.

Spokesperson Francis Labbé simply mentions the possibility of requesting the collaboration of large consumer industrial customers, launching Hilo challenges or calling on dynamic pricing subscribers.

Lowering the temperature by one or two degrees, especially in unoccupied rooms, can represent a significant saving in electricity.

The half of Quebecers' electricity consumption comes from heating. And 80% of residences in Quebec are heated by electricity.

With this record peak, every megawatt will count, testifies one of our sources, referring to the Radio-Canada investigation which revealed on Wednesday that several power stations are not operating at their full capacity.

In the wake of the report, Hydro-Québec told us that the La Trenche power station has just been put back into full production, a first since October 2020. Also, Hydro-Québec informs us that, d here on Friday morning, we will have brought back several turbine-alternator groups that were in one-time maintenance, at the Shawinigan and Les Cèdres power stations.

La Trenche dam, north of La Tuque

On the other hand, the return to full power of the LG-1 generating station will not arrive in time for the historic peak (116 MW lost), just as the breakdowns at the large Robert-Bourassa generating station will not be repaired quickly enough. . It cuts 700 MW for the worst days to come, indicates a frame.

Beyond the cold, the fact that we are about to break a new record can also be explained by population growth and the electrification of transportation and the economy, according to the scientific director of the Institut de l'énergie Trottier at Polytechnique Montréal, Normand Mousseau.

“We electrify more, we have more houses, but also, we take out natural gas and fossil fuels to put electricity. All of this increases demand. »

— Normand Mousseau, scientific director of the Trottier Energy Institute at Polytechnique Montréal

The physicist regrets that Quebec does not resolve to put in place standards, regulations, which would ensure that new houses, new constructions, would be more energy efficient.

According to the Supply Plan 2023- 2032 of Hydro-Québec, power needs during peak periods will continue to increase by approximately 400 MW each year, eventually reaching 43,696 MW. New records are therefore to be expected.