Quebec’s per-capita energy consumption among highest in world: report

“We’ve been doing this report for 10 years, and what stands out to me is the absence of overall progress in our energy consumption,” one of the authors said.

Article content

Government efforts to decarbonize the economy have done little to reduce per-capita energy consumption in Quebec, which remains among the highest in the world, a new report shows.

Quebecers used an average of 191 gigajoules of energy each in 2021, more than triple the global average of 54 gigajoules, according to the 2024 edition of L’État de l’énergie au Québec, an annual report prepared by HEC Montréal’s energy management chair released Thursday. Average per-capita consumption for all of Canada and the U.S. was higher, the document also shows. A gigajoule represents about 278 kilowatt-hours.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Canada’s second-most populous province runs the risk of missing its 2030 environmental targets — particularly in terms of greenhouse gas reductions — unless it starts curbing energy usage more aggressively, HEC Montréal professors Pierre-Olivier Pineau and Johanne Whitmore wrote. Current objectives include a 40 per cent cut in 2030 sales of petroleum products compared with 2013 levels.

“We’ve been doing this report for 10 years, and what stands out to me is the absence of overall progress in our energy consumption,” Pineau said in an interview. “There have been small improvements, but globally we are not on the trajectory that we should be on. We don’t see any of the structural changes that are required. This is worrisome.”

Industries lured to Quebec by the promise of cheap and abundant electricity are one of the main reasons the province consumes so much energy, the authors say. Almost 60 per cent of the energy used by the industrial sector is wasted and generates no added value, due in part to businesses such as cement plants and steel mills, Pineau said. Industries account for 36 per cent of Quebec’s annual energy consumption, compared with 24 per cent for transportation, 19 per cent for residential buildings and 14 per cent for commercial and institutional buildings.

Advertisement 3

Article content

Hydro-Québec expects demand for power to double by 2050. That’s why the utility unveiled plans three months ago to spend as much as $185 billion on infrastructure by 2035 in a bid to boost output and reduce outages. Hydro-Québec is looking to add up to 9,000 megawatts of new capacity in the next 12 years — five to six times the capacity of Côte-Nord’s Romaine Complex.

“It’s going to be very difficult to decarbonize this quantity of energy,” Pineau said. “We can electrify a lot of things, but it’s going to create major issues — for instance, in terms of social acceptability. We already have an enormous electric network, and we are proposing to make it even bigger. It’s not too late if we hope to reach the goals that we have set, but we need to tackle consumption in a much more forceful way.”

Quebec’s decision to ban sales of gasoline-powered personal vehicles starting in 2035 hasn’t dented demand — yet.

To be sure, the province’s electric vehicle fleet has more than doubled since just before the pandemic. Quebec had 168,478 electric vehicles at the end of 2022, up from 62,901 in 2019. Electric vehicles accounted for 13 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2022.

Advertisement 4

Article content

By 2030, the provincial government is aiming to have two million electric vehicles on the road.

Recommended from Editorial

In the meantime, gasoline-powered sport utility vehicles and trucks remain extremely popular. They’ve outsold cars in Quebec since 2015, and the trend is accelerating, the report shows. SUVs and trucks accounted for 70 per cent of Quebec’s vehicle market in 2022, almost triple the 24 per cent share achieved in 1990.

Sales of petroleum products jumped seven per cent in 2022 as more and more large vehicles joined the provincial fleet, the report says. The statistics “illustrate the gap between our energy consumption habits and targets, which are still far from being met,” the authors say.

Quebec imported 54 per cent of its energy in 2021, the report also says. Locally produced hydroelectricity accounted for 34 per cent of total consumption, ahead of oil at 32 per cent, natural gas at 16 per cent, and wind power and biomass, each at six per cent. Hydroelectricity produced by Newfoundland and Labrador’s Churchill Falls dam made up five per cent of consumption.

All of Quebec’s oil comes from North America. Western Canada supplies 52 per cent of the total, compared with 48 per cent for the U.S. Oil and gas made up 12 per cent of the province’s total imports by value in 2022, according to the HEC report.

[email protected]

Advertisement 5

Article content

Article content