Quebec is a clean energy superpower. It runs on hydroelectricity. The province is water-rich. A half million lakes, plus mighty rivers, cover 21% of the land area of Quebec. It is the fourth largest hydroelectric producer in the world after China, Brazil, and the United States. Fully 96% of the power used in Quebec is hydro.
Visiting from drought-stricken Southwest, it’s hard not to be impressed by Quebec’s massive water resource. The forests are lush, the fields green and bountiful, rivers flush with their fresh water. Just outside of Quebec City are the Montmorency Falls. At 272 feet, the falls are 98 feet higher than Niagara Falls. We climb the 487 steps to the top. You can feel the power of this cascade. Hydro Quebec generated power here many years ago.
Quebec is also a fresh water superpower. It has a huge water resource. While a far-out idea no doubt, and fraught with reasons why not, couldn’t we pipe some of it before it heads to sea? We pipe natural gas and oil for long distances. Why not water? These pipelines would be very safe. Ripe and riparian politics for sure. But consider the value of the resource.
To fulfill much of the LA quench, we already go more than 300 miles north to the Sierras. This is done using a mixture of diversion spots, natural water channels, aqueducts, and pipes that act like gigantic siphons. By chance, we bump into John Miller, a colleague of Terry’s from LADWP. We talk water. Parsons Engineering studied piping water to LA some years ago from Alaskan. Apparently the Governor of Alaska then was happy to sell this resource south before it poured into the saltwater ocean. This transference was part of Robert Bourassa’s vision for Quebec too, shipping water south to the States.
The James Bay Region is 620 miles north of Montreal. It is the size of France… with less than 20,000 inhabitants. I visited there with Michel in 1991 when I was consulting for the Burlington Electric Department (Vermont). My analysis showed that efficiency was the least-cost resource, the most cost-effective resource option. Perhaps carbon-free, James Bay power could supplement efficiency.
Given this exceptional hydrology, the James Bay project was projected to have a whopping 27 GW potential (about 27 large nuclear plants in size). Throughout its development, the project was vehemently opposed by Cree and Inuit aboriginals. Forceful opposition by the Cree – some 5,000 strong — let to cancellation of Great Whale phase of the James Bay project. “In the end,” or at least to date, 16 GW was built at a cost of ~$20 billion USD, mostly along the La Grande River. The project involved diverting some rivers into the La Grande watershed. The area of development is equivalent to New York State.
Travelogue… Last night. AirBNB in an up and coming area – Griffintown – near downtown Montreal. The building is a condo, recently built, unfinished cement ceilings… modern and minimalistic. We park near “the foundry,” a bar with microbrews for $5 Canadian. We fuss with finding the key. Gads. Then we’re in. Quick shower and out to dinner.
Travelogue… Last morning. At Trudeau airport; reflect on week, how full. Full of family, friends – new and old, full of rain, forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers. The week’s been full of affirmations and renewed aspirations. Great cheer we had, and travelling insights we gained in Starksboro, Burlington, Montreal, and Quebec.