Quebec Electricity Utility Slammed With Requests From Cryptocurrency Miners

Be careful what you wish for. Hydro-Quebec, Canada’s largest electric utility, which has been courting cryptocurrency companies with its low cost, renewable energy, has been deluged with requests to supply 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 applications in the past few weeks, according to Bloomberg. The ventures will require more than 9,000 megawatts of energy, which is equal to a quarter of the utility’s total generating capacity of 37,000 megawatts. Last month, the company reported it was negotiating with more than 30 cryptocurrency companies. Martel said he has been corresponding on LinkedIn with people from China, Russia and many other places. He said his phone has been ringing off the hook.

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

It will take the company several months to review the requests, and it will most likely not be able to meet all the requests. There are no plans to build more hydropower plants.

Martel is considering charging bitcoin miners more than the rate of about 5 Canadian cents (3.91 U.S. cents) per kilowatt-hour that t normally charges industrial users such as data centers.

Martel said his first priority will be to make sure bitcoin miners do not endanger the supply of power to the residents and industrial users who depend on the utility.

In addition to 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 data centers in Montreal.

The province’s more than 40 data centers use about 350 megawatts of power. By 2020, that number could reach around 1,000 megawatts, Martel said.

The province has land available and its energy is 99% renewable, Martel said. The fact that the energy is renewable benefits a company’s branding, he noted.

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