On April 7, 2016, the Government of Québec ("Québec") unveiled its long-awaited energy policy for 2016 to 2030 ("Energy Policy 2030"). This policy presents Québec's vision of being a North American leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy by 2030, and follows extensive consultations undertaken in 2013 and 2015.
Energy Policy 2030 sets out Québec's objectives for energy development in the province over the next 15 years, placing consumers at the centre of its actions. The objectives of this policy are to:
- favour a low-carbon economy;
- ensure the optimal development of Québec's energy resources;
- encourage the responsible use of energy resources;
- capitalize on the potential of energy efficiency; and
- promote technological and social innovation.
These objectives show a commitment to significant change in the energy use of the province, and an overall concern for climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The policy asserts that Québec will make over $4 billion available to households, businesses and public institutions over the next 15 years, for measures relating to energy substitution and energy efficiency.
In Energy Policy 2030, Québec commits to:
- reducing the consumption of petroleum products by 40%;
- eliminating the use of thermal coal by 2030, with a possible exception where proven carbon capture and sequestration technology is applied;
- 25% increase in renewable energy production;
- 50% increase in "bioenergy" production, including biomass and biomethane generation; and
- 15% improvement in energy efficiency.
If these energy transition goals are reached, almost 61% of the province's energy needs would be met through renewable energy by 2030, a significant increase from the current proportion of less than 48%. In this same period, greenhouse gas emissions in Québec would be reduced by 70%.
Changes to Legal Framework
In order to make this energy transition, Québec undertakes to make important changes in its legal framework regarding energy matters.
In Energy Policy 2030, Québec commits to modernizing the approval process for energy projects, such as generation and transmission projects, to make project assessment and approval processes more streamlined and efficient.
These legislative changes also include reviewing the role of the provincial energy regulator, the Régie de l'énergie, and the creation of a new organization responsible specifically for innovation, energy efficiency and energy transition.
The responsibilities of this new organization would include:
- financing "green technology" enterprises and consumers with respect to energy transition;
- advising the government on standards and regulations, "eco-taxation" measures and other matters which could influence the energy consumption of homes and businesses, in a pro-active manner;
- working to decrease the carbon footprint of public infrastructure; and
- supporting research and development with respect to energy use and production.
Support for Commercial and Industrial Sectors
Québec will also increase support to the commercial and industrial sectors, to assist in improving energy efficiency and to reducing carbon footprints. These sectors collectively represent 52% of all energy use in the province at present.
The 2030 Energy Policy also sets out new measures relating to transportation, including:
- the conversion of commercial transportation vehicles to liquified or compressed natural gas or propane;
- promoting the use of vehicles with low carbon footprints for transporting people and goods;
- increasing the number of electric and rechargeable hybrid vehicles in the province, with a target of 1 million such vehicles registered in Québec by 2030; and
- ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is in place in the province to support these transportation measures, such as through a network of electric charging stations and multi-fuel stations.
Plan Nord: Development in the North
Energy Policy 2030 also seeks to ensure an adequate supply of electricity and natural gas to mining projects in the north of the province, including through extensions of the transmission network, where viable.
The policy also mentions support for a transition to renewable energy for "off-grid" electricity production for isolated communities and businesses, to support the replacement of electricity generation through fossil fuels.
New Approach for Fossil Fuels
Although Energy Policy 2030 provides for a transition away from the use of fossil fuels generally, Québec still acknowledges the importance of this industry and its place in the province through the policy, while setting out certain measures such as:
- the enforcement of stringent environmental and technical standards for hydrocarbon extraction;
- the development of a statutory framework to ensure that hydrocarbon exploration and extraction activities are carried out responsibly;
- increased monitoring of the transport of hydrocarbons within the province; and
- ensuring social acceptability for projects through enhanced public participation.
Implementation of the Policy
Energy Policy 2030 will be implemented in four phases.
Québec will first make changes to the current statutory framework and will then develop three separate action plans for the implementation of the policy, respectively, for 2016-2020; 2021-2025; and 2025-2030.
Québec asserts that Energy Policy 2030 represents a strategic and targeted approach which builds upon the province's strengths, and that it will create a strong new economy, to create new jobs and attract investment, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the province.