Prime Minister François Legault on Thursday stressed the importance of hydroelectric dams to meet energy needs as he inaugurated the Romaine complex launched by his predecessor Jean Charest, and praised his courage.
Mr. Legault traveled to the North Shore to celebrate the completion of Hydro-Québec, whose four power plants installed on the Romaine River, near Havre-Saint-Pierre, produce approximately 1,550 megawatts.
“For me, this is a model that should be followed in potential future projects,” he said at a press conference.
During last year’s election campaign, Mr. Legault expressed his desire to restart the construction of hydroelectric dams in order to meet electricity demand, which should exceed Hydro Québec’s supply as of 2027. Hydro Québec is currently conducting preliminary analyzes on the Petit Mecatina River, also located on North Beach.
Mr. Legault stressed Thursday that improving energy efficiency and deploying wind turbines will not be enough to meet companies’ electricity needs – and the needs of achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2050, as planned in international agreements. “Wind is intermittent, so it’s not enough. So the heart of our options, the best option, remains hydropower.”
Wind power is intermittent, so it’s not enough
For his part, Minister of Economy and Energy Pierre Fitzgibbon confirmed the stability of hydroelectric power production. “To achieve balance in wind energy production, there is nothing better than hydroelectric dams,” he pointed out.
In addition to increasing wind energy production, Hydro-Québec wants to install new, more efficient turbine generators at existing power plants.
The courage of Jean Charest
Mr. Legault stressed that the construction of dams remains one element among others. The outcome of negotiations with Newfoundland and Labrador to renew the supply contract with the Churchill Falls power station remains an important variable in the equation.
Faced with the challenges of social acceptance of the new dam, Mr. Legault stressed that no project is perfect. “When you launch big projects, there are always negative reactions,” he said.
During a press conference following the ceremony, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to salute the initiative of his predecessor, Jean Charest, who invited him to participate in the inauguration of the complex.
“It was important for me to invite Jean Charest who courageously launched the Romaine project in 2009, which was widely criticized. But I still believe that hydropower is the best option.”
Mr. Charest was flattered by the kind words addressed to him by Mr. Legault and the ministers present. “I was pleasantly surprised, and I thank Prime Minister Legault,” he said.
First Nations and royalties
Mr. Legault did not dispute the hesitation of some indigenous communities regarding the prospect of building a new dam on the northern shore, as would be the case if the Petit Micatena project goes ahead. “There are Ainu leaders who support this, and others who oppose it. There is work to be done, but it is too early to answer this question. It is an issue under analysis.”
During the opening ceremony, the leader of the Ainu community in Equanitchit, Jean-Charles Petacheu, emphasized the importance of the new royalty formulas. “I know how to count. We’ll count in billions, not millions. If we were to argue, that would be it.”
Later, Hydro-Québec CEO Michael Sabia, who accompanied Mr. Legault, raised the possibility of establishing partnerships that would allow communities to own assets and participate in the management of energy production activities.
“Social debate” is on the horizon
Prime Minister Legault confirmed that Hydro-Québec will present a revised strategic plan at the beginning of November that will serve as the basis for a “community discussion” about the choices to be made regarding energy. The document will be the subject of discussions in the parliamentary committee.
Mr. Sabya noted that this would be the first step in a more detailed plan. He added: “Presenting this plan is the beginning of the dialogue with us and the government. Then we will get to this conversation about the details.”
In this regard, nuclear energy remains one of the aspects that has been studied, even if Prime Minister Legault is keen to emphasize its hypothetical nature. “There is currently no social acceptance in Quebec for nuclear energy. [Mais] “It is important that Hydro-Québec puts all possibilities on the table.”
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