The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal is giving its five pillar sponsors a platform to speak on a variety of issues that contribute to the city’s economic momentum.
This interview was conducted with Étienne St-Cyr, Eng., Head of Energy Expertise at Hydro-Québec
CCMM – What are the challenges of energy transition and what strategies can companies adopt to address them?
Étienne St-Cyr (É.S.C.): Energy transition has many facets, but in Quebec, we are fortunate to have a favourable energy context that is different from the rest of North America. Quebec has a strong clean electricity production potential. Companies have the resources to proceed with their energy transition and they benefit from programs to help them adopt new technologies in order to make the most of electricity. However, companies don’t have to make a full transition in one step—it’s best to proceed in phases. For example, with respect to heating systems, we suggest that the heating used at warmer temperatures be electrified with heat pumps first, while maintaining fuel heating for colder temperatures. In a second phase, heat storage technologies, which are still more expensive, will be available to complete electrification at a competitive cost.
Companies shouldn’t rely solely on well-established technologies to ensure their energy transition. They should explore the various solutions available to them and choose the ones that stand to be the most profitable in the long term. Companies that have already begun an energy transition can take advantage of the energy efficiency measures available to all our business clientele in order to optimize their electricity consumption.
CCMM – What advantages does the city have in facing the new challenges posed by energy transition?
É.S.C.: The city has a robust and dense electricity network compared to other Quebec regions. As a matter of fact, in most cases, electrification is easy to access and can accommodate new connections at a lower cost. This network is called the "metropolitan loop." It is a redundancy in the electrical network, a high-voltage belt that ensures an extremely reliable supply. This is part of the reason why technology giants are coming to Montréal: they want to benefit from this robust and accessible network. Our network is also partly underground, which protects it from the elements and constitutes a great advantage.
CCMM – How can the energy transition stimulate the creation of new business models for the city's companies?
É.S.C.: The energy transition is in full swing, but a digital transition is also in effect. These two transitions stimulate the creation of new business and consumption models. Our traditional clientele is being replaced by digital businesses that generally consume large amounts of electricity. Hydro-Québec is very well positioned to serve these businesses. The favourable energy situation in Quebec and Hydro-Québec's competitive position allow these companies to benefit from an optimal energy balance and, by the same token, to be a step ahead of their global competitors.
CCMM – How is Hydro-Québec helping Montréal businesses make the energy transition while staying competitive?
É.S.C.: Beyond the proposed programs, Hydro-Québec wants each business customer to have a link with our various levels of customer support. For example, we have implemented the consumption profile, where customers can analyze their electricity consumption. We have also developed a mobile app that provides access to a wealth of data in real time. Our goal is to help our customers fully understand their consumption.
We also want to conduct energy simulations to initiate the transition with our clients. Doing so will help to direct them towards the appropriate program and support them in each transition step. We are working on making information readily available and easy to understand when it comes to new technologies and the energy options available to our customers.
With respect to renewable energy, we have a strong advantage in Quebec. We must recognize our privileged position and ensure that we transition to this green energy.
CCMM: In conclusion, if you had one advice to give, what would it be?
É.S.C. : Don't accept the status quo. Profitable electric technology is available today!