Hydro-Québec’s great appeal to “start-ups”

Historically, at Hydro-Québec, innovation was the exclusive domain of the Institut de recherche en électrique du Québec (IREQ). The spin-off of new subsidiaries, such as Hilo and Evlo, as well as the creation of the InnovHQ division have changed the situation. Innovation can come from all sides, and the crown corporation does not want to miss the opportunity to establish itself a little more as a facilitator with young Quebec startups.

This is especially apparent in electric mobility, an area in which Jeff Desruisseaux, CEO in residence assigned to this sector at InnovHQ, wants to send a clear message: the innovative transport companies that come knocking on his door will be welcomed with great arms. open.

Quebec’s (over) energy consumption

North Americans are the largest consumers of energy in the world. Quebecers are among the largest consumers on the continent. This can be explained simply: the province produces abundant, affordable and almost entirely renewable electricity. It imports petroleum products which are sold to motorists at a relatively low cost. To convince them that climate issues require a reduction in this consumption, it seems that the carrot strategy is more effective than that of the stick. In any case, this is the approach adopted by InnovHQ in its first steps, including that of helping the school transporter Autobus Groupe Séguin manage its first ten electric school buses that hit the road this fall, explains Jeff Desruisseaux.

“Our challenge is to accelerate, over the next eight years, the electric transition of transportation in Quebec. In this sector alone, it is 8 terawatt hours of energy that we can collect by 2030. The pilot project with the Séguin group is an example of an application that we can then quickly reproduce with other partners, such as this either in school transport, public transport, commercial delivery or even urban transport. Electrification is a paradigm shift for transportation, and our role is to facilitate that shift. “

Hydro-Québec’s role in mobility

Hydro-Quebec has flirted with the transportation sector for decades, but it is only in recent years that this has started to gain momentum. The implementation of the Electric Circuit, one of the most efficient charging station networks in North America, is the most convincing example. The state-owned company has long defined itself as a simple producer and distributor of electricity, but its role has evolved through the creation of subsidiaries such as Hilo, Evlo and InnovHQ, which have a more active role in industries close to the sector. energy that the Quebec giant did not dare to touch too much in the past.

“Our role is really to facilitate the energy transition in these sectors,” says Mr. Desruisseaux. “The role of companies providing school transportation or delivering goods is not to develop expertise related to charging infrastructure. Companies have the possibility of electrifying their operations, but they remain operators. With the Electric Circuit, we have developed an expertise that will help them in their transition. “

Five million electric vehicles in Quebec

Quebec currently has 5.2 million vehicles registered, so they are likely to hit the road at any time. This total continues to increase. The more manufacturers offer electric motor models, the greater the load on the province’s hydroelectric network. Many analysts wonder if Hydro-Québec has the means to meet its ambitions given the scale of the upcoming electric shift. And not only in transportation: the recent supply agreements signed with the states of the Northeastern United States will also reduce the margin of maneuver of the state-owned company, which sees it more as an opportunity to be seized than as a challenge, especially on the transport side, notes the CEO in residence of InnovHQ.

“Five million electric vehicles on the road sounds like a challenge, but it’s also a huge opportunity for our electricity grid. Five million batteries are in circulation throughout Quebec and on which we could count under certain conditions to supply part of the network. We currently have two-way charging stations in our Blainville offices. Vehicles like Ford’s F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck will soon be able to charge, or conversely, will be able to power a home with their battery. It’s not quite a reality yet, but it’s coming. “

Les «start-up»

In addition to Autobus Groupe Séguin’s electrification project, InnovHQ is piloting other projects that have little to do with transportation. This includes a partnership with the Cycle Momentum accelerator in agricultural technologies to develop greenhouses to grow food all year round in Quebec. The subsidiary of Hydro-Quebec is also planning to hold an energy innovation summit later this fall, where it hopes to connect with entrepreneurs and young companies that are developing promising technologies to make the energy sector more effective.

“We are a reception center for start-up. The message we want to send them is simple: come knock on our door, and we’ll help you with your projects. We want to work with all the members of the Quebec innovation ecosystem and we are ready to help them grow. This is also something that we are currently doing with our subsidiary Axso, which has developed the software platform for the Electric Circuit. We want to be able to export this expertise. So we invite them start-up to get in touch with us. “

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