In Quebec, the development of hydropower began in 1885 with the commissioning of the Sault Montmorency power station. During the five decades that followed, several new hydroelectric power stations were built. By 1943, Quebec boasted 89 hydroelectric power generating facilities.
Between 1944 and 1962—(the year during which the Jean Lesage government nationalized electricity)—41 new facilities were added. In all, before Hydro-Quebec was established, 130 small hydroelectric power stations were already providing Quebeckers with electricity!
In addition to these, twenty-five new hydroelectric power stations were erected between 1963 and 1990, including Hydro-Quebec mega-projects Manic-1, Manic-2, and the LG-1, LG-2 et LG-3 complexes at James Bay. Few small hydroelectric power stations were built during this time.
In 1991, the Quebec government moved to encourage privately owned facilities, issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to build small hydroelectric power stations of 50 MW and less; 16 contracts were then awarded, for a total of 750 MW of installed capacity. Several of the hydroelectric power stations commissioned under this program were old facilities in need of repair that were entirely refurbished by private developers.
There are currently 108 hydroelectric power stations in Quebec operated by private owners and municipalities, as well as by industries that generate electricity for their own use (aluminum smelters, pulp & paper manufacturers, etc.). Located in almost every administrative region of Quebec, these facilities have a total installed capacity of 4000 MW, which represents approximately 10 % of the installed capacity generated by Hydro-Quebec’s large hydroelectric power stations.
In 2009, in order to assist regional economic development, Hydro-Quebec issued a new RFP for the purchase of an additional 150 MW of hydroelectricity; this RFP targeted community-owned projects and First Nations initiatives. This led to the approval of 13 new projects, all of which will be commissioned at various times between 2011 and 2015.