What we know about the Fitzgibbon reform

He has been talking about it since December 2022 and has commented on it extensively since: Superminister Pierre Fitzgibbon must table his “heavy” bill on energy in the coming days. He wants to push Quebec towards energy sobriety, accelerate the development of new electricity production as well as simplify and relax the criteria for private companies to produce energy for their needs and those of other companies.


Posted at 1:22 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

An integrated energy resources plan

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

The La Gabelle dam, erected on the Saint-Maurice River

The bill provides for the development of an integrated energy resources plan. Quebec is aiming for carbon neutrality in 2050 and at the same time wants to attract more businesses: the Ministry will be responsible for explaining how it intends to achieve this by presenting various scenarios. “Our plan will say: what is needed to net decarbonize the province in 2050? And it won’t just be hydroelectricity,” warned Pierre Fitzgibbon during a conference in Montreal earlier this month, as reported by The Montreal Journal. Quebec will therefore take inspiration from other companies, such as Manitoba Hydro, BC Hydro and Nova Scotia Power, which have similar game plans with horizons of 2040 to 2045.

Less bureaucracy, more speed

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PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Pierre Fitzgibbon wants to be able to deploy wind energy projects more quickly.

Minister Fitzgibbon wants to be able to deploy wind energy projects more quickly to increase Quebec’s production capacity. His bill would reduce the bureaucracy for launching calls for tenders. For example, instead of having to study each call for tenders in the Council of Ministers, Mr Fitzgibbon could reduce the process by 26 weeks by authorizing the development of the wind sector over several years. In its 2035 action plan, Hydro-Québec (HQ) emphasizes that “the permitting process in Canada is an obstacle to the implementation of major infrastructure projects” and considers that “the necessary and rapid increase in electricity production will require simplification and better alignment of processes at both levels of government.”

Hello to price increases

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PHOTO OLIVIER JEAN, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

The Régie de l’énergie believes that Hydro-Québec could implement dynamic pricing within the current regulatory framework.

The bill should not directly address the issue of the famous nocturnal dishwasher, one of Mr. Fitzgibbon’s favorite examples. The Régie de l’énergie believes that Hydro-Québec could implement dynamic pricing within the current regulatory framework. It is also HQ’s wish to offer “flexible price offers in order to encourage responsible consumption habits”. Pierre Fitzgibbon must, however, enshrine in his law François Legault’s promise to “never” increase electricity prices beyond inflation or a ceiling of 3%. If nothing is done, the Régie must carry out a review of Hydro-Québec’s costs during the summer, and this exercise could lead to a more significant rate increase.

What place for the private sector?

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PHOTO OLIVIER PONTBRIAND, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

TES Canada wants to manufacture green hydrogen in Shawinigan and produce its own energy with wind turbines located throughout Mauricie.

The bill will likely offer a greater place to the private sector in energy production, through self-production. The flagship project: TES Canada, which wants to manufacture green hydrogen in Shawinigan and produce its own energy with wind turbines located throughout Mauricie. Quebec affirms that the project already respects the law, but it will ensure to avoid any form of legal challenge by allowing companies to self-produce energy elsewhere than on the industrial production site. Minister Fitzgibbon clarified in January that companies like TES will be able to sell their surpluses to Hydro-Québec or directly to other companies, without using the state company’s transmission lines.

The energy transition in the Régie’s mandate

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PHOTO DAVID BOILY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Heat pumps save energy.

Hydro-Québec, for its part, would like the notion of “energy transition” to be taken into account by the Régie de l’énergie when it analyzes subsidy programs to help Quebecers save energy, through heat pumps. , geothermal energy or heat accumulators, which reduce electricity demand during peak consumption. According to our information, Quebec should acquiesce to this request. The question asked is: who should pay for decarbonization? The consumer with higher prices or the taxpayer with his taxes? The Couillard government has already made a similar decision in the past by making Hydro-Québec customers pay for the connection to the Réseau express métropolitain electrical network, in Montreal, for example.

The end of the floor price on gasoline

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PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon wants Quebecers to pay less for their gasoline.

The minister will take advantage of this law to eliminate the floor price on gasoline. He thus hopes to increase competition and wants Quebecers to pay less for their gasoline, in a context where he received an expert report telling him that the profit margins of fuel distributors are very high in four regions: the Capital- Nationale, Chaudière-Appalaches, Gaspésie and the North Shore.

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