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Evaluating Quebec's Choice of Hydroelectricity

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Given that Canada is a rich country with plenty of rivers and lakes, it is obvious that the best and most suitable way of producing electricity is through the use of water, that is, hydroelectricity. This paper will evaluate Quebec’s choice of hydroelectricity and introduce biogas which is another way of energy production that may be a better choice; it will mostly establish a comparison of the impact of each of those two energy sources on the environment and on the economy.

For several years, Quebec has opted for hydraulic energy to produce electricity, therefore, it is important to evaluate this choice and rethink its benefits. Based on a documentary produced in 2010 (La recherche du courant), hydraulic energy showed to have a negative impact on the environment. The use of hydroelectricity led to many disasters which the government did not worry about, as that was in contradiction with their main reason of using this source (a renewable source to protect the planet). The documentary explained that 25% to 40% of trees were cut for the project ‘la Romaine’.

Peter H. Gleick, who is a scientist working on issues related to the environment at the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, also stated in his paper that, as a result of the use of a hydraulic source, “Flooding land displaces or eliminates terrestrial biota by destroying habitat and altering the aquatic ecosystem of the formerly free-flowing river”; producing hydroelectricity requires a dam to be built, getting rid of many trees in the projected area, and proceeding to flood the whole area along and around the river, which leads to change the natural course of the river and thus to the destruction of the whole natural flora and fauna around it. Needless to say, this also contributes to eliminate any previous farming and houses beneath the dam and around, as it becomes a serious flooding hazard area.

Imane, a Saint Laurent college student and an acute environment protection activist, once said: “It is funny how this country intends to promote and insure the protection of the environment and nature while, in fact, it contributes to their destruction, so long as the project is perceived to be efficient enough, and while hiding behind the argument of using clean, renewable energies, but unfortunately focusing solely on that one source of energy while other, more efficient and more nature friendly sources are left on the side”. She explained that solar cells for instance could be used even during winter time (when the sun is not visible) yet this source is rarely used. Imane also noticed that many rivers have been totally destroyed, and she explained her theory: “If you look at all the flooding that is happening now in Quebec, there is a high possibility that this may be due to past and current hydraulic projects; what am saying is that a river always opens up on a bigger river or the sea; now if that river is turned into a dam, then the natural flow of that river is disturbed and, as it rains, the water level rises up. Therefore, it is natural that it would flood since the excess water has no specific exit”.

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Since hydraulic energy presents more harm than benefit, it is essential to look for other options and methods that may be more sustainable than hydraulic energy. “While the solar energy is great, it’s an intermittent energy; it’s important to combine it with another sustainable energy source such as wind energy or biogas, the latter one being more environment friendly and therefore more sustainable since it’s a product of biomass”, – said Imane. Biogas is a product of Anaerobic digestion of animal manure, it is an energy that is produced during the decomposition of biomass. “Biogas production is a natural process whereby micro-organisms convert the carbohydrates, proteins and fats contained in organic substances into the main products methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide” (Anaerobic Digestion News blog). Quebec could make a use of this energy since it has so many lands and farms; however only a few of them are using this energy according to the documentary (La recherche du courant). This form of energy is mostly used in Europe where there is an increase in animal production as stated in the article of J.B. Holm-Nielsen; the more animal production the more animal manure, a surplus in this last one could represent a pollution threat to the environment which is why it is important to manage it and put it into use such as biogas to produce heat and electricity. “Anaerobic digestion of animal manure has the general goal of converting organic residues into two categories of valuable products: on one hand biogas, a renewable fuel further used to produce green electricity, heat or as vehicle fuel and on the other hand the digested substrate, commonly named digestate, and used as fertilizer in agriculture” (J.B. Holm-Nielsen).

On the economical aspect, between biogas and hydraulic energy in Quebec it was obvious according to the documentary (La recherche du courant) that biogas is more beneficial and less expensive. “I think that biogas would be cheaper since it requires less work than hydraulic energy. With the advancement of technology, I believe that transforming animal manure into biogas is easier than destroying a river and building a dam. It is easier to have more animal manure if needed than having more rivers to exploit. the excess of money used in building dams could be used for other projects such as health care, education, etc.”, – explained Imane.

As documented in the documentary (La recherche du courant) biogas costs from 6 to 18 cents per KWh compared to 2008 project (project La Romaine) which cost 10 cents per KWh, as for the potential, biogas could provide from 18 to 30 billion KWh and a potential of 8 to 16 billion of KWh only for hydraulic energy.

A Canadian study made in 2013 had shown that biogas not only saves the government money, it also reduces the emission of CO2 and offers a huge amount of jobs “Realizing the full potential of biogas development would lead to up to 1,800 separate construction projects with a capital investment of $7 billion and economic spin-off of $21 billion to the Canadian economy. These construction projects would create 16,800 construction jobs for a period of one year and 2,700 ongoing long-term operational jobs” (Kelleher Robins Canadian Biogas Study Technical Document, December 2013).

As a conclusion, hydroelectricity is less sustainable than other forms of renewable energies it is therefore recommended to seriously look up into those other forms of renewable energies considering the damages hydroelectricity could cause to the environment.

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Evaluating Quebec’s Choice of Hydroelectricity. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/evaluating-quebecs-choice-of-hydroelectricity/
“Evaluating Quebec’s Choice of Hydroelectricity.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/evaluating-quebecs-choice-of-hydroelectricity/
Evaluating Quebec’s Choice of Hydroelectricity. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/evaluating-quebecs-choice-of-hydroelectricity/> [Accessed 30 Jan. 2023].
Evaluating Quebec’s Choice of Hydroelectricity [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Oct 28 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/evaluating-quebecs-choice-of-hydroelectricity/
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