The sun, the great forgotten of the energy transition

The sun, the great forgotten of the energy transition

While around the world, including in other parts of Canada, solar energy is experiencing exponential growth, this form of energy remains the largely forgotten part of the energy transition in Quebec. The results of Hydro-Québec’s most recent tenders for the purchase of renewable energy will not change anything.

The state corporation, which wants to buy 480 megawatts of renewable energy of any kind on the market, has received proposals totaling four times that amount, or 2,101 megawatts. Of 13 offers received, only one proposes solar energy. Its planned production is 32 megawatts.

The next 4,000 megawatt tender to be announced soon will not move the needle. In principle, it is completely reserved for wind energy, even if the terms of this new tender are not yet final.

The call for bids “could be open to other forms of energy, but wind power is preferred,” said Maxence Huard-Lefebvre, a spokesman for Hydro-Quebec.

“It is a production that we know well, that is easily integrated into our network and that can be put into service quickly”, he summarizes.

If retained by Hydro-Quebec, the 32-megawatt solar park project submitted by Stace Group would double the contribution of solar energy to the energy balance of Quebec, which today essentially only has two solar power plants built by Hydro-Québec as part of a pilot project with a total capacity of less than 10 megawatts.

Quebec is one of the provinces where the solar sector is least developed in Canada. The relatively low price of electricity produced by hydroelectric plants, which supply 95% of Quebec’s needs, is certainly one explanation, believes Karim Belmokhtar, a specialist in the renewable energy sector and co-author of an industry portrait. of solar energy in Canada conducted by the Quebec Nergica Research Center. However, with the end of Hydro-Québec’s surpluses and the increasing demand for electricity, the time has come to become more interested in this source of energy, he believes.

“The competitiveness gap is constantly narrowing and the cost of solar power is now almost equivalent to that of wind power,” he says.

It forecasts that by 2030, the production cost of solar installations larger than 1 megawatt connected to the Quebec electricity grid will be around 5 cents per kilowatt hour, lower than the rates of Hydro-Quebec, which, for its part, will continue to increase.

time to act

The underrepresentation of solar power in Quebec’s power supply is deplorable, but not surprising, given the lack of incentives to speed up its development, say companies working in the industry.

Quebec has interesting solar potential, comparable to that of several countries where the solar sector is developing rapidly, such as Germany.


The roof of the headquarters of the Lemay firm

This potential is enough to cover a large part of the 25 terawatt hours of new needs established in Hydro-Québec’s strategic plan, according to Marco Deblois and Mike Perrault, partners at Rematek Énergie, a firm specializing in solar installations. Rematek carried out, in particular, the solar roof for Maison Simons in Quebec City and for the Lemay architecture studio in Montreal.

In the industry, many would like to see Hydro-Québec launch a tender reserved for solar energy, which would identify the best projects and provide the necessary impetus to launch the sector, as we have done with wind energy.

But according to Marco Deblois and Mike Perrault, the development of solar energy in Quebec does not go through a bid from Hydro-Quebec. In this type of market appeal, forms of energy are put on an equal footing, which puts solar power at a disadvantage, explains Mike Perreault during an interview with Press.

“Solar energy can be produced at the point of consumption and does not need to be transported over long distances like wind energy, he illustrates. This avoids adding expensive transmission capacity. A solar installation is installed faster than wind turbines, he adds.

The key to solar development is simpler and, above all, it is there, before our eyes, according to him. It is the roofs of our houses, our businesses and our businesses that can become so many small solar power stations and produce electricity in a decentralized way.

“With only 3% of the roofs available for the installation of solar panels, we can produce 10% of the new needs identified by Hydro-Québec,” he says.

A tax credit that would make it possible to obtain a faster return on the investment necessary for the installation of photovoltaic panels would be more effective than a specific tender that, for its part, is directed at the construction of large solar parks that must be connected to the Hydro network. -Quebec.

With a financial incentive in the form of a tax credit, solar production would develop thanks to private investment from individuals and companies, instead of public investment, Mike Perreault stresses.

Due to lack of financial assistance, only the most convinced currently decide to install solar panels and decentralized solar production is very marginal in Quebec. Only 800 of Hydro-Québec’s 4 million customers have grid-connected solar installations.

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