FAQ: Is hydro power from Hydro-Quebec clean, green and renewable?


According to Northern Pass, 98% of the power that would be transmitted via the proposed transmission line is hydro-power from Hydro-Quebec’s massive hydro facilities. This power is classified as “large hydro” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). Under EPA rules, large hydro does not qualify as “green.”

Similarly, the New England states have adopted renewable energy portfolio standards requiring certain amounts of power sold to come from “renewable” sources. Five of the six New England states (including New Hampshire) do not approve large hydro as “renewable.”

The construction of Hydro-Quebec’s hydro-power facilities involved huge landscape and environmental changes including the damming and re-routing of rivers, flooding of literally millions of acres of pristine land that was sacred territory to the “First Nations” of Canada (the native peoples), and blasting, excavation and construction of dams and spillways on a massive scale. REAL believes it is doubtful whether projects of this destructiveness and magnitude could be constructed today in the United States under applicable legal, policy and political constraints.

The research is not yet definitive on whether large-scale hydro, including Hydro-Quebec’s plants, is in fact a net addition to or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Hydro-Quebec’s own research indicates that because of the breakdown of biomass under the reservoirs, greenhouse gas emissions from large hydro actually exceed those of comparable conventional fossil fuel plants for the first 10 years of the hydro facility’s
operations. There are questions as to whether the cross-over date may be substantially later, or if it occurs at all. This is highly relevant given that HQ is in the midst of a large expansion of its hydro facilities, including the flooding of major new reservoirs.

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