NY needs clean renewable energy like Québec hydropower

To the Editor:

If you want the science on Québec hydropower and the real story, here it is.

In his letter to The Altamont Enterprise of Oct. 1, 2020, Tom Ellis got one thing right: There are many ways of conserving and generating electricity [“Blocked-river hydro contributes to climate change”]. But he failed to point to all the science published on Québec hydropower and failed equally in recognizing the dire need for new sources of clean energy in New York.

When the Indian Point nuclear generating station closes its doors in 2021, eighty-six percent of the electricity used by New York City will come from burning fossil fuels. The state, leading the nation with its emissions reduction goals, will need all the clean renewable energy it can source. And that includes Québec hydropower, which could start flowing into downstate New York well ahead of other renewable build-outs.

In my previous letter, I quoted a study on greenhouse gas emissions from energy sources that was published by a research group at Polytechnique Montréal, our engineering school: https://tinyurl.com/y5gr4tkb. I’ll repeat their conclusion, because it doesn’t seem to have been noticed the first time around: “Based on the environmental indicators studied, the results for hydropower are among the best, thanks to the option’s minimal use of resources during the generation phase. Conversely, thermal generation using non-renewable sources shows the worst results, due to the extraction, transformation and use of fuels.”

So, contrary to what Mr. Ellis asserts, the science on greenhouse emissions from different renewable sources is clear. Hydropower developed in a boreal region such as Québec has a greenhouse gas emission signature similar to that of wind — and emits 50 times fewer emissions than natural gas plants. The aforementioned study is clear on that point.

New York’s Clean Energy Standard recognizes that existing clean renewable resources delivering to New York — including Québec hydropower — are eligible towards achieving the goals of the state’s Community Leadership and Climate Protection Act. Today, deliveries from Hydro-Québec meet 5 percent of New York State’s electricity demands, and form a full 20 percent of its renewable energy baseline.

There’s more science out there about Québec hydropower. Biodiversity is not destroyed in hydropower reservoirs; on the contrary, it flourishes. Katrine Turgeon, a professor in natural sciences at the Université du Québec in Outaouais, said in an article on that very subject that “hydroelectricity production in these remote boreal ecosystems caused little change in fish diversity.”

Working closely with Indigenous communities is a top priority in Québec hydropower development and the company has signed more than 40 agreements with five nations over the last 40 years or so. But don’t take my word on this. Take a minute to read this news report in which Abel Bosum, Grand Chief of the Cree Nation, shares a powerful testimony about the collaboration between the Cree and Hydro-Québec, and then you’ll have some insight to make up your own minds.

So the science on hydropower is abundant and clear. New York’s clean renewable energy needs are great indeed. The state’s regulatory authorities are proposing new ways to better access Québec hydropower because it’s going to cost New Yorkers less to decarbonize if we all work together. It’s time to move quickly on climate change, putting all of our efforts behind clean renewable energy projects like this line, like offshore wind and like solar.

Gary Sutherland

External Relations

Exports and Acquisitions


Editor’s note: In a 4-to-1 vote, the Guilderland Town Board on Aug. 4 passed a resolution that will let the Champlain Hudson Power Express Inc. run underground lines through the town to bring electric power from Canada to the New York City area.

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