Over the last 70 years, the Canadian hydropower industry has converted hundreds of thousands of square miles of forests, agricultural lands, wetlands, and peatlands to reservoirs, generating stations and transmission corridors. These lands cannot be “renewed” to their former state as greenhouse gas sequestering resources. Forests and wetlands that have been storing carbon and methane for millennia are flooded to create reservoirs, dikes, and diversions and decomposing organic material releases CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. Trees permanently removed cannot grow back to sequester CO2 fast enough. The hydropower industry’s operations release methane and CO2 as reservoirs are raised and lowered causing flooding and erosion.
The construction and operation of these dams and transmission corridors has consumed and continues to consume massive amounts of steel, concrete, and fossil fuels. The industry has been responsible for creating “carbon bombs” when massive areas like the 56,000 square miles for Hydro-Quebec’s two dams were flooded. Yet, the industry continues to get a free pass.
The carbon accounting loophole means Canadian hydropower GHG emissions are not included in state or international inventories.
In the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) hydropower emissions are not addressed. Further, state and federal greenhouse inventories and programs do not account for greenhouse gases from hydropower. This is a major carbon accounting loophole that allows the hydropower industry to continue to evade accountability for its role in making the climate crisis worse.
Hydro-Quebec will not reduce climate-related emissions, and in fact may increase overall emissions because it lacks the supply to provide hydroelectricity to contracts for New York and Boston
Three separate reports show that Hydro-Quebec is already selling all its excess power to neighboring markets over existing transmission lines and has no surplus power to sell to New York City or Boston as proposed. As a result, buying hydropower from Hydro-Quebec may mean that Hydro-Quebec uses fossil fuels to supply its customers in Canada. Any reduction in carbon emissions in New York City and Boston would be offset by increased emissions elsewhere because power redirected from other regions. Two of the reports conclude that Hydro-Quebec and the transmission corridor developers are greenwashing the projects.