Hydro expansion dampens conference

Breaking news of a controversial five year "strategic plan" by Hydro Quebec -- featuring a major expansion of hydro electricity -- put a damper on the spirits of the Canadian wind energy community last month, gathered in Quebec City for the annual conference of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). Hydro Quebec made its announcement in Montreal on October 22, coincidentally the final day of the CanWEA conference. The government owned utility monopoly is proposing to build new hydroelectric dams and transmission lines to carry electricity into Ontario and the United States in its "Strategic Plan 1998-2002." The $13 billion plan also includes river diversions to existing generators and may well encounter the same opposition as that attracted by the utility's overly ambitious "Great Whale" hydroelectric plan in the early 1990s. It does, however, establish a new set-aside for renewable energy, thereby tacitly acknowledging that mega-hydroelectric capacity is non-renewable. The plan also earmarks new funds for energy R&D. Many of the CanWEA conference's 200 participants (a record for this annual event) had hoped for a major commitment to wind power from the Quebec government, which recently slowed down the planned 100 MW Le Nordais wind project on the Gaspe Peninsula. Hydro Quebec's concentration on large-scale hydroelectric generation is increasingly perceived as unacceptable, non-renewable and unsustainable in US export markets. CanWEA has been promoting wind as an alternative. (A full report of the CanWEA conference will appear in Windpower Monthly's December issue.)