New bill aims to change how and when Quebecers consume energy

Quebec has tabled its much-anticipated energy reform bill and it’s committing to a maximum rate hike of three per cent for residents for the next three years, after which an assistance program for those who have a hard time handling the financial shock of the increase will be put in place.

In the meantime, consumers might want to get used to the idea of doing their dishes at 2 a.m. instead of after dinner.

Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon wants Quebec to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and that means making some changes to the way people consume electricity.

“The energy board and Hydro-Québec could put programs together to incentivize people to consume at different times or to consume less and those would be optional,” Fitzgibbon said.

This is one of several measures proposed by the province in its energy transition bill, Bill 69.

To reach its climate targets, the province says it needs to make double the energy it’s currently producing.

Renewable energy projects such as wind and solar will have to multiply.

To accelerate those projects, Quebec wants to reduce bureaucracy.

If the bill comes through, there will be no calls for tenders for Hydro-Québec to award energy contracts. The energy board will decide what projects are awarded to whom.

“This will accelerate and move faster, yet this opens to the risk that without competing bids, maybe we will pay too much,” said Dr. Normand Mousseau, the academic director of the Trottier Energy Institute at Polytechnique Montréal.

Another disposition is to allow companies to produce their own energy and sell the surplus to neighbours, something manufacturers celebrate as they seek to grow their businesses.

A recent survey conducted by Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters shows that about a third of its members say they don’t have enough access to renewable energy to be able to either achieve their investment projects or decarbonize their operations.

“For us this is really the main concern, having access to energy at the right time, at the right price,” said Véronique Proulx, the association’s CEO.

The bill will be studied when the national assembly is back in session in the fall.

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