The breach of the denationalization of Hydro-Québec

Are we witnessing the start of a denationalization of electricity?

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Is the Legault government preparing to deregulate the production and then the sale of electricity, which would shake up Hydro-Québec’s monopoly?

The legacy of the Quiet Revolution, that of a Master at our house in energy, is it subtly and suddenly threatened by Pierre Fitzgibbon and François Legault?

THE top guns caquistes assure us that no. Stop worrying, PM says, “private to private” will always be “marginal and not significant”.

No cause for concern, then.

However, we can be suspicious of those who say we should not be suspicious. Especially when we look at the bigger picture.


The overall picture is this: to decarbonize our economy, we will necessarily have to increase our electricity production. Until doubling it.

This is already a huge project in itself.

But it doesn’t stop there.

At the heart of the Legault government’s economic strategy is this: attracting large industrial companies with ridiculously low electricity rates.

This is the Dollarama strategy, denounced by the former CEO of Hydro-Québec, Sophie Brochu.

It works well, nearly 150 projects are on the table in the minister’s office. Companies see it as a business opportunity.

How can we meet demand, then? Legault and Fitzgibbon have their own idea: they want private companies to be able to self-produce their electricity, then sell it to others. A bill is pending on this subject.

An example: Amazon would produce its own electricity with its wind farm, and then sell its surplus to other companies or to Hydro-Québec.

This, we must admit, is the beginning of a privatization of electricity production in Quebec.

While we must be open to new ways of producing electricity, there is cause for concern here.

And this, for strategic, economic, symbolic and democratic reasons.

Strategic and economic reasons

The first to suffer from privatization would be Hydro-Québec.

Expertise would first risk gradually leaving private companies. Exactly as we experienced in health and transportation.

Expertise, but also competition for access to resources and materials. International markets are currently saturated with demand for renewable energy equipment.

Logical thing: if Quebec decarbonizes, other countries follow the same trajectory. Good luck to Hydro which will have to compete with private companies for the purchase of turbines, for example.

You may even start to worry about your rates. Certainly, the Legault government swears to cap them.

But attracting businesses at rates lower than the production price will have a cost. All the experts say it.

Who will pay the bill? Either Hydro itself, or SMEs, or taxpayers.

Then symbolic and democratic reasons

Hydro-Québec is also a source of national pride. Symbol of independence and of a community which socializes its efforts for the common good. It’s not nothing.

This nationalist government will have to explain the advantages of denationalization – however partial it may be.

And there is ultimately a democratic question here.

In 2022, the CAQ presented itself to voters without ever mentioning a possible opening to the private sector in electricity.

This should have been put on the table. This could even be debated by referendum. In any case, it shouldn’t be decided between a few people.

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