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Energy management, a worthwhile economic and ecological investment

12 April 2022

Québec enjoys clean and affordable electricity thanks its investment in hydroelectricity and the latter’s nationalization. What are the advantages of this for industries and businesses?

 

Increasing the electrification of processes is one of the solutions to consider for the future because of the intrinsic nature of Québec's electrical wealth—it is available, renewable, affordable, and produces limited greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

 

This abundance has, however, also led to an extremely high level of consumption. In fact, Québec currently consumes more energy per capita than almost any other country in the world.



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If energy is the bloodstream of our economy, then industry is its metabolism

Manufacturing is central to Canada's economic well-being. It consumes energy and raw materials and transforms them into substances and products.  

Although they provide us with many benefits and everyday comforts, industries are also very energy-intensive. In fact, the industrial sector accounted for just under half (44.5%1) of total electricity consumption in Québec in 2018.

 

As a result, energy consumption in the industrial sector clearly impacts the overall consumption of energy in Canada. Given all of this, the question is: Can we do better?

 

Electrification of industry, a step towards sustainability

Industries and businesses obviously consume energy in different forms:

  • Oil is used at 14% for transportation and the raw materials it represents (plastics, tars, etc.).
  • Natural gas is used at 19.7% mainly to heat buildings and certain processes.
  • Electricity is used at 49.8 % to operate machines and computer systems.

 

Because they have grown and evolved, electrical technologies now offer better energy performance. According to ADEME2, 18% of the fuel consumed for thermal processes, or 41.6 TWh, could be substituted by electrical techniques. 

Beyond the benefits related to the decarbonization of industry, since electricity in Québec comes mainly from a renewable source, the electrification of processes offers an economic alternative to the rising costs of other sources of electricity.

 

 

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Most of the electrical energy in Quebec comes from hydroelectric dams

 

 

As René Lévesque, former Premier of Quebec, said, “Electricity is Québec’s only source of energy. We have more of this resource [hydroelectricity] than anyone else around us.” 3

And yet, despite this, our hydroelectric resources would not be enough to supply the cumulative electrification needs of industrial processes, transportation electrification and heating that is exclusively powered by electricity. Industries are therefore called upon to reduce their consumption, with a view to producing more with the same amount of energy. 

 

What are the first steps to take towards energy optimization?

According to the International Energy Agency, “energy efficiency is the key to a sustainable global energy system” 4.

Through energy efficiency—defined as the technical improvement that reduces the demand for energy required to produce a given good or service—it is possible to reduce energy consumption.

 

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Some industrial facilities can be optimized to reduce energy consumption.

 

 

Indeed, many of the Saint-Laurent industries visited by Sylvain Foulon, our Sustainable Development Commissioner, had energy loss, non-efficient systems, thermal discharge, and continuously operating systems that not only contributed to unnecessary consumption, but also proved costly for the company. He also noted that, while managers were aware of their facilities’ lack of efficiency, they did not know where to start or what actions to take to improve the situation.

 

This is precisely when an energy audit or diagnosis becomes necessary for a company. It establishes the company’s:

  • consumption by sector,
  • draws up a list of feasible eco-efficient actions
  • and determines the return on investment for each of these actions.

 

All of this information is required in order to make informed decisions.

Quick wins are often implemented in the weeks following the energy audit.

 

 

What financial assistance is available to facilitate and incite action?

In order to facilitate energy transition, several governmental or para-governmental stakeholders offer incentives that encourage companies to take action.

The ministries of climate change, innovation and natural resources have developed several generous financial aid programs for the replacement, conversion or improvement of energy consumption.

Hydro-Québec, for its part, financially rewards the reduction of electricity consumption and peak load shifting.

 

Practical resources available for companies and their managers

Very often, managers and their employees who wish to commit to energy transition encounter three main difficulties 

  1. Lack of time
  2. Lack of skills
  3. Lack of financing

 

 The sustainable development tables organized by Excellence industrielle Saint-Laurent aim to support company managers by offering them concrete solutions. Held on March 30th, 2022, the most recent table on reducing costs through energy efficiency was hosted by an energy audit expert and a representative from Hydro-Québec. Participants were able to ask them any and all questions relevant to optimizing their processes.

 

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March 30th, 2022 Sustainable Development Table: Reducing costs through energy efficiency

 

The next meeting will be held on May 2nd, 2022, in collaboration with PME MTL, and will be attended by the companies of Technoparc Montréal, located in Saint-Laurent. This round table will also deal with the actions to be taken to ensure optimization of energy in this particular business park.

If you have questions or projects related to your energy optimization or wish to join one of the sustainable development round tables, do not hesitate to contact your Sustainable Development Commissioner, Sylvain Foulon.

 

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Sources:

1 : Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles - https://mern.gouv.qc.ca/energie/statistiques-energetiques/consommation-electricite/ 

2 : https://www.actu-environnement.com/ae/news/etude-allice-electrification-procedes-industriels-decarbonation-37590.php4 

3 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKmwGQ4-zKQ (see clip 05:30)

4 : https://www.iea.org/reports/energy-efficiency-2021 

5 : https://mern.gouv.qc.ca/energie/politique/documents/fascicule-3-BEIE.pdf 

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