Almost all the electricity produced in Québec is hydroelectricity, generated using a clean and renewable resource. Hydroelectric development is based on the principles of sustainable development, and takes environmental, social and economic concerns into account.
Hydroelectric projects are subject to Québec and Canadian environmental impact assessment procedures. The Québec procedure varies, depending on whether the project is located in the south, or north of the 49th parallel in a northern environment. For more details, see the website of the ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques .
The public hearings held as part of the assessment procedure provide an opportunity for the project to be presented to the general public, along with its environmental, social and economic impacts and the planned mitigation and environmental monitoring measures. At the same time, citizens can express their concerns and give their opinion about the project.
Hydroelectric projects are subject to various environmental requirements, ensuring that the best possible design is used and that the mitigation and environmental monitoring measures are adapted to the host environment. For example, the requirements include:
- maintaining reserved flows downstream from dams;
- maintaining an operating water level in reservoirs that takes various uses into account;
- developing fish spawning grounds and the wetlands used by wildfowl;
- constructing boat launching ramps.
For each new project, agreements are signed with the local authorities (regional county municipality or local municipality) and Native communities affected. Where necessary, the agreements provide for the creation of funds for regional development and the promotion of traditional activities, as well as corrective work.
Hydroelectric projects generate major regional benefits and support the development of expertise in Québec that can then be applied worldwide. For example, Hydro-Québec supports the establishment of regional economic benefit committees, which work to ensure that contracts, hiring, and the supply of goods and services are kept within the region.
In addition, it has been shown that a monitoring committee in which the promoter takes part, and which serves as a consultation committee, is an effective tool for preventing and resolving conflicts with the community. The Best Practices Guide for Monitoring Committees and Legal Obligations of Mining and Petroleum Project Promoters presents a number of proven practices for the creation and operation of monitoring committees.
The production of electricity in Québec from water power, a clean, renewable resource, makes a major contribution to its outstanding green house gas emission profile.