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Mixed reactions to Fitzgibbon's energy bill

Photo: Karoline Boucher The Canadian Press The business community welcomes the measures to accelerate energy production in Fitzgibbon's bill. Environmental groups deplore the fact that energy efficiency is not a priority.

Roxane Léouzon

Posted at 7:07 p.m. Updated at 8:15 p.m.

  • Quebec

The Quebec business community positively welcomed Bill 69 on energy from Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon on Thursday. However, businesses are concerned about the potential rate increases that will come with these massive investments by Hydro-Québec. Environmental groups, for their part, have expressed several criticisms of the CAQ bill.

“We are facing a historic challenge, a lack of electricity to develop our new green sectors and decarbonize our businesses,” says Mathieu Lavigne, director of public and economic affairs at the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec.

Companies therefore look favorably on measures aimed at the more rapid development of renewable energy production projects, in particular through the conclusion of supply contracts without calls for tender. They also welcome the idea that private producers of electricity from renewable sources can sell their surpluses to their neighbors.

“It broadens the possibilities” for manufacturers looking for energy for their various projects, estimates Véronique Proulx, president and CEO of Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec.

“The increase to 100 megawatts of the limit for small hydroelectric power station projects will provide another solution for Hydro-Québec to manage the peak period and limit during this period its imports of electricity mainly produced by fossil fuels,” said for its part indicated the Quebec Association for the Production of Renewable Energy, by way of press release.

The bill also provides for the establishment of an integrated energy resources management plan (PGIR) which “would establish the orientations, objectives and targets to be achieved in terms of energy and “energy efficiency over a twenty-five year horizon”, according to the press release issued by the office of the Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy. This rejoices in the business community.

“It’s important to have good planning and to ensure that it is done efficiently, transparently and at the lowest cost,” said François Vincent, vice-president for Quebec of the Canadian Federation of Business independent.

It is precisely these costs that worry businesses. “It is implied that an increase in electricity rates is inevitable for commercial and industrial customers, which risks undermining their competitiveness,” said Norma Kozhaya, vice-president of research and chief economist at the Council of employers, by way of press release.

Mathieu Lavigne deplores the fact that residential and commercial customers are still treated differently. In fact, Quebec intends to protect residential customers, but not businesses and industries. The bill provides that the Régie de l’énergie determines rate increases based on Hydro-Québec’s service costs. However, until 2026, if the increase in these exceeds 3% for residential, the government will compensate Hydro-Québec through a new program. Thus, the increase paid by households will not exceed 3%.

Mr. Vincent recalls that the price increases applicable to SMEs were 6.5% in 2023 and 5.1% in 2024, while those for households were capped at 3%. This has weakened businesses, he considers.

Nature and citizens in the blind spot

Patrick Bonin, head of the Climate-Energy campaign at Greenpeace Canada, for his part deplored that energy sobriety does not seem to be a priority.

“The minister is setting the stage to increase electricity production to power new industries that will suck up megawatts that will not be available to free themselves from hydrocarbons,” he said. “The government is proposing to increase the privatization of energy,” he also maintained.

The David Suzuki Foundation is of the same opinion. “We are embarking on a slippery slope by allowing the private sector to play a much more significant role in energy in Quebec,” according to Andréanne Brazeau, senior policy analyst for the organization.

“When it comes to energy transition, nature is completely in the government’s blind spot,” deplores Alice-Anne Simard, general director of Nature Québec. “The energy bill should allow Quebec to decarbonize society, but this work is not just a question of megawatts to produce. We must respond to the climate crisis and the degradation of biodiversity, without forgetting the impacts of energy development on natural environments. »

The Union of Municipalities of Quebec, for its part, asked that citizens be actively involved in planning this energy transition. Researchers fear that the population will be excluded from the process leading to the adoption of the PGIR, which will be centralized at the ministry and carried out in collaboration with Hydro-Québec and Énergir.

“It is important to have a social consensus, and we cannot build it with a ministry that will develop the plan and will only consult the population, which can be very limited,” argued Pierre-Olivier Pineau, incumbent of the Chair of Energy Sector Management at HEC Montréal.

“By operating in this way, we do not take into account civil society, the Quebec territory and the activities we have on the territory”, for his part indicated Noël Fagoaga, researcher at the 'Institute for Research in Contemporary Economics.

With the collaboration of Alexandre Shields

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116