Although Énergir will receive financial compensation from Hydro-Québec to reduce natural gas consumption, the company continues to connect 3,000 to 4,000 new customers per year.
These new customers will eventually increase the payment that Hydro-Québec will have to make, acknowledged Wednesday its president and chief executive officer, Éric Lachance. “But in the end, the value of the agreement is there for Hydro-Québec,” he argued after addressing members of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
The agreement between the two companies provides that Hydro-Québec will pay 400 million to Énergir until 2030 for its customers who adopt dual energy, compensation that will reach at least 1.4 billion in 2044 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse and which could be much higher, according to some critics (see box at the end of the text).
With the connection of new customers and economic growth, the volume of gas sold by Énergir and greenhouse gas emissions will increase. “This year, with the economic recovery, the volumes will increase, recognizes Éric Lachance, but the objective is to reduce them. He said he was unable to accurately predict when natural gas sales volumes will begin to decline in Quebec.
Énergir no longer intends to extend its distribution network to serve regions that do not have access to natural gas, indicated its president. Network extensions, “we were already doing almost nothing and right now, there’s nothing important on the drawing board,” he said.
The gas distributor will not refuse new customers, particularly in the industrial sector, but it will proceed “on a case-by-case basis, with what makes the most sense,” said Éric Lachance.
“The work of our employees is also changing,” Lachance told his audience. Our sales representatives will gradually become “decarbonization agents” to have a real impact on our customers, society and our environment. »
The company does not plan to make any layoffs, but if natural gas sales decline, revenues will eventually drop and require tighter management. “Hydro-Quebec compensation will not replace everything, we will have less money, says Éric Lachance. We had good years of growth, but now we have to manage maturity and decline. »
The gas distributor plans to redeploy in its other activities, including renewable natural gas and electricity distribution.
Énergir also has the support of its shareholders, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, whose coffers are well filled, to expand on the American market, in activities related to the energy transition, said Mr. Lachance.
Environmental groups who criticize the agreement between Hydro-Quebec and Énergir believe that the true cost for Hydro-Quebec is much higher than what the two companies say.
According to their calculation, the compensation that Hydro-Québec will pay to Énergir is $2.4 billion by 2050, to which must be added a shortfall of $4.8 billion in electricity sales for the state-owned company. . The real cost for Hydro-Quebec is therefore 7.2 billion, according to the coalition which includes, among others, Greenpeace Canada, Nature Quebec and the Regroupement of environmental organizations in energy.
Other, much less expensive means can be used to reduce Quebec emissions, according to them. The technologies exist and Hydro-Quebec is already promoting them “through its subsidiaries Hilo and EVLO and subsidies as is the case for heat accumulators and low temperature heat pumps”, they specify.
The agreement between Hydro-Québec and Énergir, which will result in an increase in rates for Hydro-Québec customers, must be approved by the Régie de l’énergie.