Inauguration of the Romaine | “A model to follow” for future dams, says Legault

(Havre-Saint-Pierre) In the eyes of François Legault, the Romaine megacomplex is “a model to follow for possible dam projects”. The one who dreams of seeing new large hydroelectric projects grow in Quebec inaugurated the North Shore installations on Thursday.

The Romaine complex “brings me a lot of pride. It is the symbol of Quebec genius,” expressed the Prime Minister who spoke Thursday at the La Romaine-1 site, a few kilometers north of Havre-Saint-Pierre, on the North Shore. François Legault did not fail to highlight the contribution of the former liberal government of Jean Charest which kicked off the project in May 2009.

The former prime minister is also on hand for the inauguration. “It’s not easy to launch major projects in Quebec. So, I say it in front of everyone: bravo! », Launched Mr. Legault, greeting his guest. The ceremony took place in front of an audience of Hydro-Québec employees and regional dignitaries. The leaders of four Innu communities on the North Shore are also participating in the event.


François Legault

The event is being held in the company of the new big boss of Hydro-Québec, Michael Sabia, and the Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon. This is the first public event bringing together the three men since the arrival of Mr. Sabia at the head of the state company in August.

The inauguration of the Romaine complex – the largest hydroelectric facility in service since James Bay – is of particular importance for the Legault government, which has placed the energy transition at the heart of its second mandate. François Legault sees the creation of the hydroelectric megacomplex as inspiration for his aims.

“For the next months, the next years. We are going to have important questions to ask ourselves in Quebec,” indicated Mr. Legault, at a time when the energy needs to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 will be enormous. “We will have to have a social debate,” he added, specifying that Mr. Sabia will present next month an “update” of forecasts of energy needs.

Quebec will need more than 100 additional terawatt hours (TWh) of energy – which is equivalent to 50% of Hydro-Québec’s current production. François Legault himself mentioned a volume of up to 150 TWh. The state company’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan estimated needs at 100 TWh.

For comparison, the Romaine complex, which has an average annual production of 8 TWh, would have to be built 19 times to meet the anticipated demand in the coming decades.

“Quebec’s next big challenge will be the energy and economic transition,” underlined the CEO of Hydro-Québec. “This is the great challenge of our era and we have everything we need to succeed,” added Mr. Sabia during his short speech.

Hydroelectric: “The best choice”

François Legault praised the merits of hydroelectric energy which remains “the best choice” for production, while wind power is “intermittent”. His superminister Pierre Fitzgibbon spoke of Hydro-Québec as “our industrial giant” in Quebec like “Toyota in Japan,” he said.

Mr. Fitzgibbon also said that “there is nothing better” than hydroelectricity to “balance” the contribution of other sources such as wind, biomass and solar.


Peter Fitzgibbon

In recent weeks, Mr. Legault has taken advantage of several forums to reiterate his desire to launch new major works. During an HEC Montreal event on September 15, the Prime Minister even invited Quebecers to “prepare” themselves to see dam projects multiply.

“We haven’t done a lot of major work at Hydro-Québec in the last 25 years,” said Mr. Legault. But prepare yourself. Michael [Sabia] works very, very hard. There will be a lot of announcements for dams, upgrade dams, wind power. »

Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon must also present this fall an important part of the government’s strategy with the tabling of his expected bill on Hydro-Québec and the Régie de l’énergie. The legislative text aims to review the framework for the development of clean energy. It will notably discuss the acceleration of wind projects and the review of Hydro-Québec rates for businesses.

For the moment, Hydro-Québec is studying a new structure on the Petit Mécatina river, also on the North Shore.

The end of a long project

François Legault thus underlined the end of the impressive 7.4 billion project, which took place over more than 14 years. Located north of Havre-Saint-Pierre – a municipality located some 215 kilometers east of Sept-Îles – the Romaine complex is a project that will have given Hydro-Québec a hard time.

The very last of the complex’s four power plants, Romaine-4, entered production in September 2022 two years late, in particular due to the instability of the rock which forced the interruption of work on more than one occasion. of construction.

The site was also paralyzed in 2010 by workers from the North Shore dissatisfied with regional hiring. Innu from Uashat mak Mani-utenam, in Sept-Îles, also blocked Route 138 in March 2012 to protest against work on their ancestral lands.

The initial bill for the project was also revised upwards, from 6.5 to 7.4 billion. Added to this are costs of 1.3 billion for the construction of the transmission line for the connection.

Four men died during the work, the worst death toll for a Hydro-Québec project in the last 20 years. A moment of contemplation in memory of the four victims also took place during the inauguration ceremony.

source site-55