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Montreal's Hydro-Quebec network is deteriorating, raising new concerns about its reliability

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Following new revelations about deteriorating infrastructure, Montrealers are once again concerned about the reliability of the city's power grid.

A Radio-Canada report revealed details from an internal Hydro-Quebec document from last year showing that much of Montreal's electrical infrastructure is outdated and struggling to keep up with increasing demands.

In 2023, there were numerous power outages throughout Quebec. Montreal was particularly hard hit by the outages, affecting tens of thousands of residents.

The Hydro-Quebec document describes the island's infrastructure as “outdated” and says that it is “becoming increasingly difficult to operate in an overloaded network” and that there is a high risk of fires, explosions or further outages.

Francois Bouffard, associate professor of electrical engineering at McGill University, said the report's findings were hardly surprising.

“The infrastructure is outdated. It is old. It needs to be replaced and upgraded with current technology,” he said.

According to Bouffard, in much of Montreal, the electricity distribution network operates at a lower voltage (12,000 V) than in other parts of Quebec (25,000 V). This difference existed even before the nationalization of electricity in the province.

However, Hydro-Quebec insists that efforts are underway to address these concerns.

“We are aware of the situation. We take it seriously, but we are active. I think we are doing what needs to be done,” said Maxence Huard-Lefebvre.

This includes replacing several aging substations, such as the Hampstead substation, which is responsible for frequent outages in the NDG area.

In addition, the energy company has increased its budget for Montreal and is allocating around $4 billion for improvements by 2030.

Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon expressed his confidence in the state-owned company.

“Looking back over the last few years, there have been some power outages, but honestly, I think they have been manageable. So I have a lot of respect for the Hydro-Quebec workforce,” he said.

Bouffard says he understands the concerns of Montrealers as their dependence on electricity continues to grow.

“More and more of us are working from home. More and more of us are relying on communications, technology, computers, etc. Some of us have electric cars,” he said.