Benefits of electricity exportsFrom an environmental perspective, Hydro-Québec contributes to the fight against climate change and pollution by supplying neighboring markets with renewable, competitive and reliable energy. Québec hydropower replaces predominantly conventional thermal generation, which emits large quantities of GHGs and other airborne pollutants.
Hydro-Québec’s exports also promote the development of other renewable generating options in northeastern North America. Hydropower is a continually available means of generation that can be started up whenever needed, and is consequently the only renewable that can support the integration of intermittent energies such as wind and solar power. Countries that have large fleets of wind power facilities must also have sufficient reserve capacity to offset fluctuations in wind-capacity that often comes from thermal power plants.
In economic terms, hydropower exports are a major source of revenue for Québec. In 2012, net electricity exports totaled $1,233 million, or $99 million more than the $1,134 million recorded a year earlier.
Interconnection capacityHydro-Québec can rely on 17 interconnection points. It can import power from Newfoundland and Labrador, and carry out interchanges with New Brunswick and Ontario, as well as with states in the U.S. Northeast.
Energy interchanges with OntarioIn 2009, Hydro-Québec increased its interchange capacity with the Ontario market (export and import) to 2,545 MW following the inauguration of a new, 1,250-MW interconnection.
The company’s commercial subsidiaries can also use this interconnection capacity with Ontario to increase the volume of exports to New York State and the U.S. Midwest, where most electricity is generated by conventional thermal power plants.
Exports to New England and New York
Hydro-Québec has been selling electricity to New England since the 1980s. This U.S. region accounts for about half the company’s exports. In the early 1990s, Hydro-Québec inaugurated the Radisson-Nicolet-Des Cantons line, a 450-kV DC line that connects the La Grande complex in the Baie-James area with Sandy Pond substation, near Boston. This line has already transmitted more than 100 billion kWh.
In collaboration with Northeast Utilities and NSTAR, Hydro-Québec is currently studying a project for a direct-current interconnection with New Hampshire. In May 2009, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the commercial structure of the U.S. portion of the project.
Electricity supply in New York State (open to competition since 1999) is affected by congestion on the transmission lines that connect the generating sites with the load centres. Although this supply is primarily intended for the Greater New York area, most of it comes either from western New York (Niagara and Oswego) or from the north, and from Hydro-Québec in particular. The power consequently flows mainly from west to east, with resulting congestion on the transmission grid. By regulation, the line that carries Hydro-Québec electricity to New York State is limited to 1,200 MW.
However, Hydro-Québec can supply western New York by wheeling power through Ontario. In this way, it can help New York State reach its objectives in terms of developing renewable energies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In August 2010, H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec, signed an agreement with the two largest power utilities in Vermont to provide low-emission, renewable energy at competitive rates for Vermont customers. The 26-year contract includes the sale of electric power to other Vermont utilities.