Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, January 18, 2007


A good article by Konrad Yakabuski(subscriber only) in the Globe today. It's a well-balanced piece on Hydro-Québec's Eastmain-1A project.

He makes note of the laudable progress that the Ontario and Quebec Liberals are making on building up the connections between their historically poorly connected power grids:

"In November, Hydro-Québec and Hydro One broke ground on a new $800-million, 1,250 MW transmission interconnection between the two provinces. It heralds a new era in interprovincial energy trading and will be a major link in a long-recommended east-west transmission grid.

Currently, very little electricity actually flows from Quebec to power-starved Ontario, and what does is sold on an ad hoc basis. But Premier Jean Charest has indicated that will change with the completion of Eastmain-1A and the new interprovincial connection.

The new long-term electricity sales agreement the two provinces are expected to sign soon would be a first. It would also be a piece of the puzzle Ontario needs to put together to end its reliance on coal-based power. Not a big piece; but it's better than no piece at all."

For some perspective on the 1,250MW link, Ontario consumes over 25,000MW of power on the busiest days (typically during a summer heat wave).

Yakabuski correctly (in my opinion) captures the nature of hydro developments these days: not ideal, but better than the alternatives:

"No one -- probably not even those Hydro-Québec engineers who live to build dams -- wants to see the majestic Rupert River reduced to a trickle in some places or pristine forests drowned in others.

But no single hydro development in the history of Canada has been as scrutinized, environmentally evaluated, or adjusted to accommodate the concerns of natives and ecologists as the Rupert project. Federal and provincial environmental review boards, both of which included Cree representatives, strongly recommended that their respective governments approve the project. Hydro-Québec, once decried as a bully, has been a model of corporate flexibility.

The Crees are understandably divided. Who wouldn't be? Their lives will be irreversibly changed; their health (from temporarily higher mercury levels in fish) potentially compromised. But the vast majority of the 15,000-strong Cree nation of northern Quebec and its leaders support the project. They will share fairly in the economic benefits."

While there is more media attention on the Federal government, and there is certainly a role for the federal government to play, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are tightly linked to our electricity generation system, which is largely in the hands of the Premiers. Personally, I think the way forward needs to include development of the remaining suitable large hydro sites in Canada, with increased transmission linkages between provinces, especially from Manitoba across to Labrador. Here is an interesting article by Toby Heaps, writing in Corporate Knights, which makes the case for such a plan in more detail.

Anyway, it's good to see that, away from the federal politics spotlight, progress is being made.


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