Canadian Electric Utility Hydro Quebec Considers Higher Rates For Bitcoin Miners

February 22, 2018

Hydro-Quebec said it may consider raising its rates for energy-hogging cryptocurrency miners.

Hydro-Québec is a public utility that manages the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Quebec, Canada. It is a state-owned enterprise based in Montreal. Its residential power rates are among the lowest in North America. Hydro-Québec is the fourth largest hydro-power producer in the world.

Hydro-Quebec spokesman Marc-Antoine Pouliot said that more than 100 crypto mining firms have expressed interest in coming to Quebec to take advantage of the province’s rock-bottom energy prices. The company has a surplus of energy, which makes miners interesting clients. However, the demand has caused Hydro-Quebec to consider an industry-specific rate change to protect its surplus.

Pouliot said the Canadian province is an attractive destination because it has the lowest rates in North America for large businesses, as well as cold weather, which helps to prevent the electronics from overheating. But excess capacity could be threatened if the bulk of the requests materialize — which is far from a given at the moment.

“Some of the proposed projects are as big as 100 megawatts — more than 20 times what it takes to power Montreal’s Bell Center,” said Pouliot. “One project like that isn’t a problem, but now we’re talking about hundreds.”

A spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Pierre Moreau confirmed the matter of raising rates is being discussed, but said no final decision has been made.

The government of Quebec estimates it will have an energy surplus equivalent to 100 terawatt hours over the next 10 years. One terawatt hour powers 60,000 homes in Quebec during a year.

Laurent Feral-Pierssens, KPMG Canada executive director of emerging technologies, said a shortage of sites in Quebec with the necessary electric capacity has prompted several entrepreneurs to break down their projects into smaller investments.

“This is the tip of the iceberg, as only a fraction of the initiatives have reached out to Hydro Quebec yet,” said Feral-Pierssens, who works with crypto miners that want to open operations in Quebec.

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