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With polls predicting that Parti Quebecois (PQ) could easily win the Quebec provincial election,Canada is confronting a possible break-up into two independent nations. PQ shares the vision of an independent Quebec with Bloc Quebecois, Canada's official parliamentary opposition. With several wind projects underway in Quebec, or being discussed, including some 50 MW for the Gaspe Peninsula and a 5 MW wind-diesel plant on the Magdalen Islands, what has PQ in mind for wind should it come to power? Below are excerpts from a discussion with Martine Ouellet on the options for Quebec, where extensive use of hydro, with its inherent storage capabilities, makes the power system ideal for taking up large amounts of wind, reducing the need for peaking power additions.

Windpower Monthly: The PQ environmental manifesto states that only the "sovereignty option" will permit achievement of the measures essential for sustainable development. Why is this?

Ouellet: The PQ fully supports the development of new, non polluting renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and hydrogen. Environmental groups have urged Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government to open the energy umbrella so that these sources gain a much larger role and public opinion is clearly in favour. We would like to see the combined wind, solar and hydrogen share of the Quebec market reach 15% by 2010. Quebec is well placed to reach this target, since our wind energy potential is among the best in North America. Our vision of energy efficiency (including a 25% saving of megawatts), development of new renewables, and enhanced public consultations on these objectives, can only be realised within a legislative and institutional framework which supports and encourages integrated resource planning.

Quebec must be able to hold over, or freely modify, all the laws that must harmonise with this programme, and create the mandates that will lead to full control of our natural resources. As a sovereign state, Quebec will benefit from the North American economic space taking shape. Energy is one of the fields where the wasteful duplication of authority and activity between the two major levels of government -- federal and provincial -- restricts Quebec's freedom of action the most. Only sovereignty will allow us to repatriate authority, avoid costly and inefficient overlaps, and centralise in Quebec the key functions of government.

Do you feel that Canada has discriminated against Quebec?

Yes, very much so. Canadian energy policy has been oriented chiefly on development of oil and gas in the western provinces and on nuclear. Taxpayers, by supporting the Candu nuclear reactor, have subsidised electricity production and the economy in Ontario [which hosts 20 of Canada's 22 Candu reactors]. Most foreign observers criticise Canadian energy policy for its hidden subsidies and price distortions in favour of billion dollar mega developments, none of which is situated in Quebec. If wind energy in Quebec had received a fraction of the support given to fossil fuels and nuclear in the rest of Canada, we would not need to import technology from the US and Europe to exploit our abundant wind resources.

What benefits will wind energy bring to Quebec?

Apart from its clear capability of reducing overall fossil fuel consumption and pollution, wind is promising for remote areas, including the Magdalen Islands and northern communities. Such locations have especially favourable winds which can be profitably twinned with their existing diesel electric generators. Wind energy can be effectively exploited by large utility systems based on hydropower like that of Hydro Quebec. The best wind periods occur in winter when utility demand peaks. Coupling wind farms to the grid would help ease the stress on the system, while using the turbines most efficiently during the best wind season. Waterpower is Quebec's chief energy source, with major economic and environmental advantages. Some very large new hydro projects, like Great Whale [3200 MW now undergoing environmental assessment] could be developed, but only when needed.We must protect rivers whose biological heritage may be threatened by dam construction.

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