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buried electrical wire | realistic solution?

Burying electrical wires as protection against ice-induced blackouts should be considered more in Quebec, even if it is illusory to think that the entire grid could be underground. explanations.

100 billion

Prime Minister François Legault recently said $100 billion would be needed to bury electrical wires in Quebec.

dense neighborhoods

Photo by Dominic Gravel, Los Angeles Press Archives

A view of Montreal from the Camelyn Hoody Observatory, April 6. The city has been severely affected due to massive power outages in recent times.

For Norman Mousseau, professor of physics and scientific director of the Trottier Energy Institute at Montreal Polytechnic, the 100 billion figure “is nothing” because “nobody is defending” the idea. “What is desirable is targeted burial,” he says. For example, in the city or in the suburbs, in crowded neighborhoods, we can do this. It costs a little more, but it will give us a stronger network because power outages in those places affect a lot more people than in the countryside. »

nearly 30%

This is the percentage of new Hydro-Québec customers supplied underground since 2008.

Source: Hydro-Quebec


This is the number of projects to bury cable networks in heritage and cultural sites that have been or have been implemented in 48 municipalities since 2000.

Source: Hydro-Quebec

missed opportunities

Photo by Hugo Sebastien Huppert, Los Angeles Press Archives

A Hydro-Québec worker at work to restore power after outages due to a recent bout of freezing rain, in the Pointe-aux-Trembles region

The best time to bury wire is when the street needs to be rebuilt. But the lack of coordination between cities and different services means missed opportunities, as Mr. Mousso believes. “For the past 10 years, Montreal has been rebuilding its sewers and sewers. We’ve opened up the streets, and landfill costs could have come down dramatically, but we haven’t, because nobody talks to each other. It’s about time every time we open up a street.” in Montreal or anywhere else […] We do. »

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Tree protection

Photo by Alain Roberge, Press Archives

Norman Mousseau, Professor of Physics and Scientific Director of the Trottier Energy Institute at Montreal Polytechnic

The crisis caused by the 2023 ice storm will lead to increased tree pruning in Montreal, which will “mutilate the city,” Norman Musso believes. “Pruning is a short-term solution. We will not bury the wires overnight, but we must do it little by little when it is possible to do so.”

4106 kilometers in Montreal

In Montreal, about half of the distribution lines are underground, which is 4,106 kilometers of distribution lines, according to Hydro-Québec. This is the case in the province for approximately 11% of distribution lines. Hydro-Québec points out that “burial is more expensive than grid overhead, and it is a decision up to the municipal or state authorities, not the electricity provider.”

Smart networks


An electric pole fell under a weight of ice on a street in Outremont, on April 6

Over the course of 100 years, electricity has gone from a new phenomenon reserved for the elite to a service around which all aspects of life revolve. Norman Musso believes that network resilience should reflect this fact.

“With the upcoming smart grids, we are moving towards more decentralized production. Electric cars can supply electricity to the grid from time to time, or solar panels can do that… These grids are also a way to reduce risk, because if there is a failure locally, we can get electricity from other sources.

Ultimately, municipalities must decide whether to require wire burial on their lands in the new provinces, and Quebec could pick up the pace by requiring municipalities to do so. “If it increases the cost of connectivity, it could also force denser neighborhoods. But densification, there are those who fight that as well…”

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