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What to expect from Pierre Fitzgibbon's energy reform?

Photo: Christine Muschi The Canadian Press Minister of the Economy and Energy Pierre Fitzgibbon in September 2023

François Carabin and Marie-Michèle Sioui in Quebec

Posted at 6:17 a.m.

  • Quebec

After a year and a half of talking about it, the Minister of the Economy and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, will table his long-awaited energy reform bill this Thursday. And he fully intends to be the minister who eventually gets it adopted.

Capping electricity prices, place of the private sector in the energy sector, cost at the pump of gasoline, roadmap towards carbon neutrality: “superminister” Fitzgibbon’s bill promises to affect a host of files. Appearing Wednesday morning on the National Assembly soap opera, it aims in particular to “ensure responsible governance of energy resources” in Quebec.

Despite rumors that say that he will leave his post before 2026, Pierre Fitzgibbon intends to carry out his reform from start to finish, affirms those around him. Given the time when it will be tabled, the bill should only be studied by parliamentarians in the fall.

At a press conference to present his project law, Mr. Fitzgibbon will be accompanied on Thursday by his former Deputy Minister for the Economy, David Bahan.

The latter has been vice-president of economic development at Investissement Québec since Monday, which led Liberal MP Frédéric Beauchemin to say that he had benefited from a “great partisan appointment” from the Coalition Avenir Québec last month. “David Bahan is an exceptional mandarin. He served the State regardless of the party in power,” replied Mr. Fitzgibbon.

The CAQ elected official has never hidden his game on his reform . In December 2022, a month after inheriting the Ministry of Energy, he already raised the idea of ​​a legislative text allowing for room for energy maneuver with a view to the decarbonization of Quebec in 2050. After having floated in the surplus, Hydro-Québec now estimates its electricity needs at 100 terawatt hours (TWh).

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Roadmap towards carbon neutrality

The CAQ reform must therefore be accompanied by an “integrated management plan energy resources”. A sort of “strategy to meet future energy needs”, this will outline the main directions of the Legault government in this area.

What place will wind and solar power occupy? or even energy efficiency in Hydro-Québec's long-term plans ? In any case, “it won't just be hydroelectricity,” Mr. Fitzgibbon said at the beginning of May.

Even if he does not close the door to resuming nuclear energy production – in fact he thinks “that we will have to use it one day” – Mr. Fitzgibbon ruled out on Wednesday that his reform would address it head on. “There will be no nuclear in the bill,” he said in English during a press scrum.

Rate Capping

As ordered by the Prime Minister, the “never” capping of residential electricity rates at 3% or inflation should be in Minister Fitzgibbon's bill. In return, the prices of businesses or industries could jump, the elected CAQ member has already suggested.

“Either we will charge commercial or industrial, or there will be fewer profits at Hydro-Québec. The decision has not been made yet,” he said in November. The minister had previously floated the possibility of adjusting prices to encourage Quebecers to consume better, even if it meant asking them to start their dishwasher in the middle of the night.

« We are not going to legislate to tell [Quebecers] to consume less. But we hope, de facto, to promote innovation, to promote different things, to ensure that consumer and industry behavior changes,” he said on Wednesday.

Private electricity production

Minister Fitzgibbon should also mark out the place of the private sector in energy production. He has already cited as an example the company TES Canada, based in Shawinigan, which intends to self-produce and even sell its own surplus electricity. “It’s not only permissible, it’s desirable. So, I encourage companies to copy the TES Canada model,” he said last year.

TES is investing 4 billion, without public aid, to build a “green” hydrogen production plant in Shawinigan. It will have its own wind farm and its own solar panels, and it wants to produce energy over an area of ​​200 square kilometers covering 12 municipalities. The government has so far looked favorably on the sale of surplus electricity by companies, as long as they do not use the Hydro-Québec transmission network.

Abolish the floor price on gasoline

Mr. Fitzgibbon intends to take advantage of the tabling of his bill to abolish the floor price on gasoline, which, according to him, has not had the expected effects — that is to say, to avoid the consolidation of the big players in the industry — since its establishment.

In a report commissioned last year by Quebec, Queen's University economics professor Robert Clark recommended that the government move forward to reduce costs at the pump for motorists.

“Perhaps competitors will lower prices even more,” the Minister of Energy predicted a few weeks ago. Then, I think that the population, the Quebecers want that. Quebecers today want to have the lowest possible prices. »

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