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May 17, 2019

An Electrifying Partnership for Hydro-Québec and Investissement Québec

Hydro-Québec and Investissement Québec are joining forces to attract more businesses to Québec. To encourage flexible and optimal management, Investissement Québec welcomed Hydro-Québec expert advisor Guillaume Charpenel on board last February 4.


Photo of Guillaume Charpenel, Hydro-Québec expert advisor


Armed with a diploma in mechanical engineering and an MBA from McGill University, Guillaume began his career in Spain as a project engineer, working on the construction of photovoltaic solar power projects Open a new window. His expertise in the area led him to co-found a solar power company in Ontario.


“It was when I realized that one of the world’s biggest producers of renewable energy was located right in my own backyard, in Québec, that I understood where I could have the biggest impact on the energy transition,” he explains. Thanks to that realization and the expertise he has acquired, he is now a member of Hydro-Québec Distribution’s energy service and product development team.


We met with Guillaume recently to ask a few questions about this electrifying partnership.


Photo of Hydro-Québec's pylon


What are the advantages of a residency position with Investissement Québec?


Hydro-Québec strives to attract international customers interested in our uniquely sourced electricity, and many of them have brought their projects to fruition with the support of Investissement Québec.


The idea behind the residency is to ensure that energy-related considerations are taken into account at the outset of the international prospecting process, to make it more targeted and more agile. The goal is to break down silos to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.


How can Hydro-Québec’s energy help attract more foreign subsidiaries?


There are three reasons why Hydro-Québec’s electricity is in a class of its own. First, the pricing is very competitive and among the lowest in the world.


Next, its prices are very stable over time. Year after year, increases have been kept below the rate of inflation. Even more importantly, the increases aren’t affected by external factors like the price of oil.


But in my view, the most important reason is its environmental strong points. Our electricity is one of the cleanest in the world.


What industries should we focus on?


I recently read something that really struck me: the simple act of sending off an e-mail produces carbon. I was struck by the environmental impact of an action that is so commonplace. If we want to stop ramping up the pace of global warming, we have to improve our products and services to ensure they have a neutral carbon footprint. And that’s a real opportunity for Québec!


We can play a leading role in this transition and attract investments from companies that want to reduce their carbon footprint. Concretely, every industry where electricity is a big part of the operating costs is ripe for development. They include data centres, of course, but also the metal industry, manufacturing and even mining.


What are Québec’s strengths in terms of renewable energy?


There are few places around the globe that can claim to have electricity as clean as ours. Prospective international clients sometimes find it hard to believe, but more than 99% of the electricity used in Québec comes from renewable sources.


Québec’s carbon footprint is so small that, if you consider their entire life cycle, using solar panels actually generates more greenhouse gas than using electricity alone.


What kinds of innovations can we hope to see in this area in Québec over the coming years?


We can expect to see environmental innovations impacting the products we consume. For example, Apple is developing a “green aluminum” that is manufactured without producing any carbon. Its use means that the company’s product is more in tune with customers’ environmental expectations.


So there’s good reason to believe that manufacturing processes with small carbon footprints will continue to develop and that Québec will play a big role in this transition. And thanks to the partnership between
Hydro-Québec and Investissement Québec, we are increasing our chances of seeing that happen even sooner!