Massachusetts isn’t the only place eyeing Quebec hydropower to transition from fossil fuels to produce electricity.
A plan put forward this week by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio says that reaching the target requires large-scale projects that include wind, solar and a new transmission line that would bring energy from northern Quebec to the Big Apple.
It’s part of an overall plan to try to ensure that New York City gets half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Central Maine Power is seeking approval for a controversial $1 billion transmission line that would bring Canadian hydropower to Lewiston for distribution into the New England electrical grid to supply Massachusetts with renewable energy in the years to come.
Some critics of the project have alleged it won’t help deal with climate change by lowering carbon emissions and might undermine smaller-scale efforts in Maine to add more wind and solar to the mix.
But New York City’s plan appears to have wide support from environmentalists who aren’t expressing much doubt about the value of switching to hydropower.
Calling it a “key initial step,” the mayor’s report said the city will work with New York’s state government to “pursue an investment in new transmission to access large-scale Canadian hydropower at a competitive price, resulting in a 100% carbon-free electricity supply for city government operations.”
“Negotiations will begin right away,” according to the report, “with the goal of striking a deal by the end of 2020 and powering city operations entirely with renewable sources of electricity within five years.”
In response, Quebec Premier François Legault wrote on Twitter: Hydro-Québec could become the green battery of northeastern America.”
Hydro-Québec said it’s interested in cutting a deal to move forward with the long-delayed Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line project that would deliver power along a new, buried line running through the Hudson Valley.
Hydro-Québec has supplied energy to New York state since 1910, but it became a sizable source after a 1978 line tied the province’s electrical grid into one in the Empire State in the northern town of Marcy. Other connections have been added since.
The power company says on its website that constructing a 1,000-megawatt line to serve New York City would add to its ability to deliver “clean energy” to New Yorkers.
The National Observer, a Canadian publication, said this week that Hydro-Québec has been adding new sources of energy for nearly two decades, “adding massive amounts of surplus capacity totaling over 5,000 megawatts, including the Romaine complex on the north shore of the St. Lawrence with four hydro dams.”
That’s enough to comply with all of the power needs sought by Massachusetts and New York City.
The company appears eager to work out a deal with DeBlasio.
“We are looking forward to sitting down with members of Mayor DeBlasio’s team in the near future to negotiate contract terms,” Hydro-Québec strategic communications adviser Lynn St. Laurent wrote in an email to the National Observer.
Hydro-Québec earned $744 million in 2019 from exported power worth more than $3 billion, according to its annual report.
It said the six New England states take about half of the exported power while New York already buys about a quarter of the company’s exports. The rest of the energy is sold to neighboring provinces in Canada.
Legault has told legislators in Quebec that the province has the potential to become an “energy superpower” if it can reach deals to export its renewable electricity to the United States.
He also said the province would consider building more dams if necessary and that wind projects in Quebec are also a possibility “when there is need for them.”
The most controversial part of DeBlasio’s move to reduce carbon emissions is a plan to force many of the city’s buildings to sharply reduce their carbon footprints starting in 2024, reducing overall emissions by 40% by 2030. That’s because buildings represent more than two-thirds of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, experts have found.
The proposed power line has attracted almost no attention outside Quebec.