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Hydro-Québec–Énergir Agreement | There is a cheaper solution for the consumer, study reveals

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There is a less expensive and less polluting solution than the dual-energy agreement between Hydro-Québec and Énergir to manage peak demand in winter, and this solution is well known to both companies: a heat pump and a heat accumulator.

This equipment makes it possible to reduce the heating costs of an average home by 32% on average compared to dual energy electricity and natural gas, concludes a very detailed study carried out by Écohabitation at the request of several social and environmental groups, including Équiterre, Nature Quebec, Greenpeace and the Grouping of Environmental Energy Organizations (ROEE).

These groups are opposed to the agreement concluded by Hydro-Québec and Énergir which means that Hydro-Québec customers will subsidize those of Énergir who replace their natural gas heating system with a dual-energy electricity-natural gas system. .

This agreement will cost $2.4 billion by 2050, an amount that will take the form of higher electricity rates for Hydro-Québec customers. With the blessing of the Government of Quebec. And the Régie de l’énergie approved this agreement. The decision was appealed.

Écohabitation analysts have compared the costs of dual-energy electricity-natural gas heating for three of the most common types of houses (1,700 sq.2) with those of a fully electric heating system with a heat pump and a heat accumulator.

Heat accumulators are refractory bricks coupled to a central heating system that accumulate heat and can take over during peak periods in the morning and evening, when the electricity network is in high demand. This is an old and proven technology, the installation of which is even subsidized by Hydro-Québec to the tune of $10,000. With the existing financial assistance, the cost of such a system is equivalent to that of the dual-energy system.

The heat pump-heat accumulator combination can heat a house at a lower cost, up to 32% less than the dual-energy electricity-natural gas system that Hydro-Québec and Énergir want to promote to replace gas-only heating systems . It does not emit greenhouse gases and meets Hydro-Québec’s objectives of reducing demand during periods of intense cold.

Énergir and Hydro-Québec argued that their agreement is the least expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the consumption of natural gas.


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Sophie Brochu, CEO of Hydro-Quebec

This is the best we could do to manage the peak demand. If we could have done that cheaply, we would have done it.

Sophie Brochu, CEO of Hydro-Quebec

Écohabitation’s analysis shows that the electricity-natural gas dual energy is more expensive than the heat pump-heat accumulator solution, compared to the price of natural gas in 2021. If the price of natural gas were to continue to increase, the solution Hydro-Québec and Énergir would therefore become comparatively even more expensive, in addition to being more polluting.

“The multi-billion compensation paid to the gas distributor would be better invested in a program to convert gas systems to all-electric systems with heat pumps and thermal stores,” the study concludes.

Asked about the conclusions of the study, Hydro-Québec replied that the two solutions are not opposed. “We need both to reduce both peak demand and emissions from natural gas heating,” said spokesperson Maxence Huard-Levebvre. Regarding the higher costs of the dual-energy solution chosen by Hydro-Québec and Énergir, the company does not want to comment before knowing all the parameters of the study.

“What it will cost in heating for a household depends on many factors. We will be able to react more fully to the Ecohabitation study when it is shared with us. »

Save Energir

“Hydro-Quebec’s main argument that there is no alternative clearly no longer holds water,” according to the Quebec section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, one of the sponsors of the study. “If the real goal is to decarbonize while taking care of peak management, there is a better solution. »


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

The objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec are a brake on Énergir’s vitality.

The analyst from the Regroupement of environmental organizations in energy, which is also one of the sponsors, believes that the agreement concluded between Hydro-Québec and Énergir has another objective, that of saving Énergir from bankruptcy.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec, we would have to eliminate natural gas heating as we did with fuel oil, which would mean the end for Énergir, explains Jean-Pierre Finet.

Énergir is no longer popular with investors. The company recently lost major shareholders, namely Enbridge and two pension funds, who sold their stakes to the Caisse de depot et placement. The gas distributor has only two shareholders left: the Caisse de dépôt (80.9%) and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ (19.1%).

According to Jean-Pierre Finet, the decision to buy Enbridge’s share in Énergir is one of the Caisse de dépôt’s worst investment decisions.



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