Big week for the Québec utility includes a pair of deals that give further shape to a new strategic plan unveiled in December promising investments in an array of electrification initiatives
It’s been a busy week for Hydro-Québec, with two major initiatives announced within 48 hours that signal coming growth on several fronts for Canada’s largest electricity provider.
On Tuesday, the utility announced a high-profile partnership with Mercedes-Benz AG. The two organizations will join together to research and develop solid-state battery technology from Hydro-Québec’s facilities in both Québec and France.
While the majority of batteries used in electric vehicles are still lithium-ion, solid-state batteries are expected to hold considerable potential for powering EVs due to their high energy density and relative durability and light weight. Hydro-Québec developed a first-generation solid-state battery in the 1990s and has continued to invest in research and development since.
“The search for the Holy Grail means worldwide and cross-industry teamwork,” says Andreas Hintennach, senior manager battery research at Mercedes-Benz AG, of the partnership. “That’s why we are always looking for cooperations and partnerships with strong industry partners and scientific institutes around the globe. We are very happy to have Hydro-Québec working with us right now.”
According to Hydro-Québec, the partnership with Mercedes-Benz will take those efforts to the next step, allowing for the testing of new products and materials in field conditions, as well as a closer relationship to the automotive supply chain.
The deal is also indicative of the actions promised by Hydro-Québec when it unveiled a new five-year strategic plan in December.
“We want to reinvent energy for a sustainable future,” says Karim Zaghib, general manager of Hydro-Québec’s center of excellence in transportation electrification and energy storage.
“Our aim is to develop ultra-high-performance battery technologies and storage systems that will accelerate transportation electrification and make it possible to bring more renewables onto power grids, on a global scale.”
Hydro-Québec also announced Thursday a strategic alliance with Innergex Renewable Energy, a Longueuil, Que.-based energy provider which develops and operates hydroelectric, wind and solar facilities globally. The utility has made a $661-million private placement in Innergex, forming what the partners describe as a “new world-class alliance in renewable energy.”
Hydro-Québec is also committing $500 million to the strategic alliance to be used in co-investment ventures including wind and solar projects, battery storage and transmission, and off-grid renewable energy networks.
Innergex has stated that it plans to use $275 million of the private placement to fund equity requirements related to potential acquisitions of two projects in the United States and Chile.
“Hydro-Québec has always been at the forefront of the development of renewable energy,” said Éric Martel, president and CEO of Hydro-Québec. “Today’s announcement fits perfectly with our vision of leveraging our skills and investing in companies or projects with high potential for synergy with our business… this alliance will allow our know-how and our innovations to shine on a global scale.”
Indeed, for a provincial power utility, global seems to be the order of the day at Hydro-Québec. Last year, in a precursor to the formal announcement of its new strategy, it invested $85 million in Dana TM4 (a producer of electric vehicle drivetrains) in an effort to develop the manufacturer’s business in China, the world’s largest electric vehicle market.
Hydro-Québec also generates significant income through exports of hydropower to several states in the American northeast as well as Ontario.