Quebec Electricity Utility Slammed With Requests From Cryptocurrency Miners

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Hydro-Quebec, Canada's largest electric utility, which has been courting cryptocurrency businesses with its low cost, renewable energy, has been deluged with requests to provide electricity to cryptocurrency miners looking to set up shop in Quebec, creating a demand that exceeds what the utility can deliver.

Eric Martel, CEO of the Montreal based utility, has received hundreds of programs in the last few weeks, according to Bloomberg.   The ventures will require more than 9,000 megawatts of electricity, which is equivalent to a quarter of the utility's total generating capacity of 37,000 megawatts. Last month, the company reported that it was negotiating with more than 30 cryptocurrency companies. Martel said he's been corresponding on LinkedIn with individuals from China, Russia and many other places. He said that his phone has been ringing off the hook.

Hydro-Quebec has been courting cryptocurrency miners in recent months in an attempt to soak up surplus energy from dams in northern Quebec. Quebec's power prices are the lowest in North America, for both consumers and industrial customers.

It will take the company several months to review the orders, and it will probably not be able to meet all the requests. There aren't any plans to build more hydropower plants.

Martel is considering charging bitcoin miners over the rate of approximately 5 cents (3.91 U.S. cents) each kilowatt-hour that t normally charges industrial users such as data centers.

Martel said his first priority will be to make sure bitcoin miners don't endanger the supply of power to the residents and industrial users that depend on the utility.

Other Industries Sought

Along with cryptocurrency companies, Hydro-Quebec is seeking to broaden its industrial base by targeting data centers. Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google both have information centers in Montreal.

The state's more than 40 data centers use about 350 megawatts of power.

The province has property available and its energy is 99% renewable, Martel said. The fact that the energy is renewable advantages a business's branding, '' he noted.