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The ThinkEnergy podcast features conversations that focus on the fast-changing world of energy. We explore through a communications lens, some of the coolest trends, emerging technologies and latest innovations within the energy sector. We seek to understand how these game changers bring their ideas to market and demystify their concepts.

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Mar 29, 2021

Québec produces 32% of Canada’s total power generated from all sources, but is only responsible for 1% of the country’s GHG emissions linked to electric utilities. What lessons can we learn from Hydro Québec’s strategic approach to innovation, climate change, expansion and technology - and how they fit together to create one of the world’s leaders in a decarbonized future? To help guide us, we’ve invited the individual responsible for developing Hydro Quebec’s overall innovation vision, strategy and R&D efforts, David Murray, Chief Innovation Officer of Hydro‑Québec.

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Dan Seguin  00:42

Everyone welcome back to another episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. Today, we're going to talk about LaBelle province, Quebec, more specifically Hydro Quebec, one of the largest electric utilities in Canada, and how their innovation and clean energy practices are also helping to make the world a beautiful place. Hydro Quebec has 62 hydro power generating stations and 28 reservoirs, making it the largest hydroelectric power generator in the country. In 2019, the province generated almost 200 terawatt hours of electricity, with hydro power alone, and with 500,000 Lakes and 4500 rivers, Quebec has more hydroelectric potential, Quebec produces 32% of Canada's total power generated from all sources, but is only responsible for 1% of the country's GHG emissions link to electric utilities. What's more, Quebec residents have the lowest residential rates in North America. electricity prices are nearly twice as high in other provinces, and four times higher in places like New York and Boston. And Quebec is doing it all with 99% clean and renewable energy. What is Hydro Quebec's secret sauce? Some chalk it up to hydro Quebec's commitment to innovation, research and development. Hydro Quebec has two state of the art research centers known as  Institut de recherche d’Hydro-Québec (IREQ). That's driving breakthroughs in the field of energy, particularly the provinces electrification of transportation, energy storage, and energy efficiency. More than any electric utility, Hydro Quebec is setting its sights on growth opportunities within and beyond borders, including an agreement to supply Massachusetts with 9.45 terawatts of power per year starting in 2022. So here's today's big question. What lessons can we learn about Hydro Quebec strategic approach to innovation, climate change, expansion and technology and how they fit together to create one of the world's leaders in a decarbonized future. To help us navigate the hallways of this behemoth. We've invited the individual responsible for developing Hydro Quebec overall innovation vision, strategy, and overseeing the company's r&d efforts. He is no stranger to large corporations, as he held senior positions in companies like Bilbao, GE Flextronics, Nortel networks, and Rolls Royce. Dear listeners, please welcome David Murray, Chief Innovation Officer of Hydro Quebec and the executive vice president of generation. Welcome, David. Let's dive into Hydro Quebec transition towards a greener and more efficient power system. What have been the biggest drivers for change and innovation that has led the organization to where it's at today?


David Murray  04:21

Oh, that's a great question. So obviously, we are privileged at Hydro Quebec. I think the first thing that we need to say is that we're privileged because we carry on what has been done over 75 years ago. So some of our predecessors actually decided to go in green energy hydro power. And actually it was a debate at the time because nuclear nuclear electricity was was probably the alternative. And we're looking after to have these decisions who were lucky to have this already. But not because we have this is that we have you know to stay put and not do anything so innovation is key for different aspects not number one is actually specially today with the environment environment that needs it more than ever, so for us to push the boundaries and in greener Quebec, because yes, we are privileged, but there's still room for opportunities if we think about transportation, for example, second aspect is obviously, sometimes a bit sensitive of profitability. So we're privileged to have, you know, very, very low rates. And obviously, not only to export our electricity, but also for having more of the electrification and in Quebec province. So profitability would say, is the second aspect that we need to push, push the boundaries and in terms of innovation, and and i would say, the last aspect is actually the social aspect. So we have to be there in terms of keeping the rates as low as possible for the Quebecers. So for us, it brings us to a position where we need to innovate, we need to think differently. And actually, we need to push ourselves in defining the energetic Quebec of tomorrow, and this is what the team is doing. And obviously, we're privileged because we have our research institute, where we have about 500, you know, scientists working day in and day out on pushing the envelope. So we're we're actually probably in good position. And it is quite exciting to see what's going on right now at their research institute.


Dan Seguin  06:23

Let's move on to the next question. the profitability of Hydro Quebec's operations allow you to pay a significant dividend to your shareholder, the Quebec government. Can you outline for us how this benefits constituents and contributes to the Quebec economy?


David Murray  06:41

Yeah, so, roughly every year we do contribute you know, if I include taxes, if I include the rights on water, we contribute about 3.5-3.6 billion to the to the Quebec government. So which which is not, you know, quite quite important for for obviously, for the government specially in those times where, you know, our different governments are getting some inventions helping out into the pandemic situation. So, so this is this is what number two is what's important to understand also is that we do invest quite large amount of money into the Quebec province. So for example, we give roughly $3.4-3.5 billion of contracts into Quebec economy, year over year, so you're talking, you know, roughly seven plus billion dollars of return that we're, we're generating either tax or we're generating work into the Quebec province. So we are certainly an important aspect of the Quebec government.


Dan Seguin  07:43

David. Last year, the federal government released a report stating that hydrogen will play a key part in Canada's plan for net zero emissions by 2050. What role will green hydrogen play in Quebec and its future energy mix?


David Murray  08:02

So Hydrogen, you know, it's certainly something that's gonna, that is on the rise in terms of visibility, major investments going on through the world, if you think about Japan, you know, the Olympics are supposed to be, you know, based on hydrogen. Germany is also very, very focused in terms of investments and more and more now in North America. So obviously, it's going to be the same in Quebec. So and we already moved on a couple of projects of we've announced lately a projects in the petrol chemical area 88 or 90 megawatt electrolyzer that we've we've put in place, so you can, you can imagine the the size of the project, which is key, and there's another 20 megawatts, that we're also pushing in big on coal for another company. So we're roughly already involved with 100 megawatts and in terms of hydrogen. So for sure, that's going to be key. The other aspect of the Hydro Quebec is looking into and questioning itself is about transportation, so transportation for larger vehicles, I would say so smaller vehicles is going to be more most probably electric. Meanwhile, there's a lot of debate on this. But I mean, the momentum is there with the the the technology right now. So but hydrogen, I think is going to be a use for larger vehicles. And we're looking into this. We have different projects that they were looking into, but at the same time, we need to do it in the right time. Because you need the ecosystem to be there. So but at the same time, if you don't do it, either ecosystem is not going to be there. So it's kind of a vicious circle, but definitely and we believe that the hydrogen is going to play a role into reducing the GHG emission and our belief is that transportation is certainly going to be key into that aspect.


Dan Seguin  09:50

Now since 1970 hydro Quebec's Research Institute IREQ has been developing advanced technologies and applications tailored to the energy sector to help improve the performance of its power systems and better serve customers. How and why was IREQ founded? What is its purpose? And what are the pillars that drive its vision.


David Murray  10:19

So I'm on a research center, celebrated 50 years last year. So we've been, we've been existing since the 70s, early 70s, late 60s, so the idea actually was created the based on bringing large amounts of electricity from up north to the south, because typically, if you look at history, so you're gonna have your your dams are producing, you're producing center, close to, you know, where it's going to be used. But Quebec was built in a different way of the large amount of water is up north. So we had to, you know, be creative. And this is where Mr. Shambo with Research Center was put in place in order to find ways to bring the electricity from up north to south. And we needed large, large ways to transportation line. So this is where the 735 kV line created. So it really changed the way of doing business. You know, and instead of passing, like, multiple lines, you had one line that could do it, do it all, so that that was actually critical, and in the energy transition for Hydro Quebec. But now the research institute keeps pushing it. So we, we want to, again, we want to keep the boundaries, higher and push the limit in terms of electrification. And, you know, if you think that the system and the energy sector has been pretty stable, the way it's been doing business year over year, and now we are we're part of energy transition. So our IREQ, our research center is going to become key in in a couple of aspects. Number one, resilience over network. So obviously, with the climate changes, and everything that's happening, I mean, you have to, you know, think differently about how you're going to be building your network. Second is efficiency, obviously, we're privileged because we have one of the lowest rates, you know, in on the planet. But that doesn't mean that we have to take it for granted. So the team is working on on finding ways to do our lines better: different materials, for example, with bush lien, also into Hydro Quebec, in order to, you know, build some processes they'll be keeping rates as low as possible. Number three, is going to be the energy transition, I was talking about it earlier, this is crazy, you know, we're living something that's as big as the telco changes, I would say, with the energy transition, you know, just go back 5 years, you know, the world is completely different. And we're probably just at the beginning of it, where, you know, we're going to bring IoT devices and a new technology, new ways of producing decentralization behind the meter. So, I mean, there's so many things happening now. So there's so many variables. So it's important for researchers to think about this, and what's the best for the Quebecers with the best in the network to accommodate all these, these changes. And last but not least, is really working, you know, with data with software computing, in terms of focusing and giving an amazing customer experience. So customer services is key. So now we're going more and more about the experience, I would say, and we had lost that I would say, if I go back five years ago with Hydro Quebec now we've done a lot of progress. So there's still still some ways where we could we could improve, but our research center is working on software and in artificial intelligence in order to push the boundaries and bring us to the next level.


Dan Seguin  13:58

Okay, let's keep on going here with with technology and innovation. I'm fascinated about your robotics department, and in particular, how you're leveraging drones that have the capability to land on energized conductors. Can you tell us about your robotics program and how these drones you developed are helping you with some very dangerous jobs?


David Murray  14:26

Oh, you're touching a very important subject because I am a drone pilot. So I'm fascinated by drones. So I have my license. And I fly them once in a while. And a couple years ago, two - three years ago, I was at the Research Institute and I was walking by robotic department, the guys were playing with the drone, I could see them on the table. And I was like, Okay, I'm going there. I gotta go and see. And so I meet the team over there and telling them you know, bragging a little bit saying I'm a drone pilot, and everything says, Oh, that's cool. So, and I said, so Okay, so come here, come here and try that, you know, if you want to fly the drone, you know, I'm like, oh, okay, that could be interesting. And then I asked the price of the drone, and said, forget about it. So we're going to keep the experts doing what they do, and I'll stay on this side of the table. So drones, obviously, you know, these are new technologies, we have developed our robotic team different different tools. Now, I would say to help us out so we have line rangers for example, you know, as a spy that goes on the lines and can spec miles and miles of lines, which is great, because it's safer, we don't have to put people into this, you don't have to, you know, hijack these are employees and to make sure that the lines are okay, so these devices now can can make analysis on you know, online, and you can take, you know, recording pictures, whatever you want x rays, so this is crazy. Now, next step is really to bring your own drones. So, drones can can land on 735 kV lines, do inspections, and you can imagine the speed of doing things. So it goes back to what I was saying earlier. So you know, your health and safety is improved your efficiency and resilience of the network is there and you're doing it efficiently. So let's say that's helping us on reducing the rates and keeping rates low. So we're looking at different aspect now. So we're using it also on on dam inspection. So we're up north going so before use this trap the guy you know and go and inspect the the side of the dam and everything. So now you just buy the drone that takes you know, a fraction of the time, it's safer. And you get the you can do more at a certain level at the same time. So this is this is this is key. And the next thing that we're looking into is actually a fighter dome over stations, power stations and look at thermographic images to be able to detect if there are any weaknesses or pre defects so we can we can be more effective. So again, you can imagine, you know, the speed that you can do versus you know, having having people stop people working, you know, disconnect the power into this, and it's very inefficient. So now we got to use these technologies, so quite exciting. But I'm not going to fly these drones. I'm going to let the experts do it.


Dan Seguin  17:10

For many years, David hydro Quebec's pursuit to electrify transportation has revolutionized the electric vehicle sector in the province while supporting provincial decarbonisation. It's safe to say that the electrification of transportation is a major growth driver for Hydro Quebec. What are some of the examples of synergies you develop to help drive the mobility sector?


David Murray  17:39

Yeah, so I would say just, it's a major contributor on the growth, I would say, it's an important contributor, it's not that big for us. I mean, if you think about you know, having all the electricity, if you have 1 million vehicles,  if you have multiple vehicles for let's say, 4 million, it'll be like whatever 12 with our so when you think that, you know, we can we can produce over 200 years. So that's, that's important, but it's not huge in terms of in terms of volumes. But quite, we're still pushing it, and we're pushing it, because it's gonna help reducing the a GHG emissions so. So for us, it's key that we're, we stay a leader and in Canada and in the Americas in terms of EV. So we have partnership with our governments, obviously, that giving you know subventions in order for getting the cars. We actually, in terms of working out and making it easy for customers, we actually acquired a company called the Axso. So we've launched a new software in last June, and actually you just enter the spec of your cars, and we'll tell you where to go with it and what's the best route? Where are the stations? And we actually, it was interesting, because once one, when we launched that, on Apple, actually, Apple called us to say what's going on with this software. So because we hit like number seven on the day or something. So pretty happy about this. So this is this is going to be key. And the next step is working. Obviously, we're you know, partnering is working with the Quebec government. So we're looking at next steps now to increase the number of recharge stations that we have throughout Quebec. So 2500 fast charging stations that we've announced by 2030. And we want to add on top of that, so we want to make sure that people feel secure about, about taking electric cars and going wherever they want. So that's, that's quite exciting. And obviously, the environment needs it. So as fast as we can do it, the better it will be.


Dan Seguin  19:52

Let's move to renewables. It's clear that Hydro Quebec has become a world benchmark in the generation of clean, renewable energy. It also plays a key role in the development of battery technologies for electric vehicles, as well as electric power trains, Hydro Quebec saw EV's as an important source of revenue growth for its organization. And as early as 2012, you've been very active in deploying the country's first public charging network. Can you maybe talk to us about electric circuit? And what's next for it?


David Murray  20:32

Yeah, so electric circuit, like I was saying, we're going to push a higher number of recharge stations and and increase, increase the confidence. What we're doing also, in terms of the, all the electricity, electrification of Quebec, we're pushing the boundaries also, where we believe that there are some roadblocks and for example, if you think about electrification of larger vehicles, like school buses, for example. And one thing that we're looking into is trying to remove the roadblock of infrastructure investments. It's all nice, because all you know, sometimes you go in the news, and oh, someone bought so many buses, electric, which is great. It's great stuff. But behind it, I mean, there's all the infrastructure, and this is this is a roadblock because it's major, major investments that these companies have to do today. It's very simple school buses, they just put deisel in, and they just go. But now if you go electric, the game is changing. So the stations needing to understand, you know, when do they recharge, what's the cycle, what's the best timing of it, not, you know, overkill, all the capex that you need in order to make it make it work. And this is somewhere that we're working on something that we're working on. So we want to put Hydro Quebec in the middle of that, working with different partners. And to ease all the capex that's required for these, these school buses, throughout the the Quebec province. And this is going to be good also, for public transportation. So you know, it's same thing for them. I mean, it's major, now they have these big garages. So when you think you know, the number of school buses you have in Ottawa, for example. I mean, imagine when you have to convert all this to electricity, I mean, the guys upstairs, they're going to look at this as demand, that's going to take a lot of capex, right how we're going to do this and in buying you the bus, you have to you have to have all the investment that's going to be done behind itself. So that's key. And this is something that we want to tackle, and we're working now, and we're working with the Quebec government, but we want to be an enabler into this. And that's what we that's where we're focused on which is, which is quite interesting. And last point, I would say is, we can't forget that I took it back as develop electric motors. So we had the subdivision company called Tmfour, which is in boucherville, right here, near Montreal on South Shore. And we've developed amazing electric motors and we actually sold a portion of the company. So we still own like 45% of the company, but we made a partnership with Dana and in the US. And Dana is like, you know, a large company that's been there for over 100 years. So they selected our motor and now we're deploying these borders around around the globe. So that's, that's really something that's actually pretty cool. So to have Hydro Quebec, participating around the globe, and electrifying, the large, it's for larger vehicles, but it's actually quite interesting. And I had the I had the pleasure to try one of the vehicles actually. So on in Shawenigen, we have, we have this place where we built two houses, where we wanted to push the boundaries about the energy transition. And we had our scientists from Research Institute and the guys go crazy, have fun, and we have one whole house that's decoys that can you know, do the comparison with the house that's fully equipped and, and it was interesting to see all they've done. So we have solar panels on the roof, we have battery in the basement. We have you know, all the technology, then IoT, and thermostat lights and everything that came you can imagine. And  it's exciting to see. And in the living room, you have this major screen like TV screen, but you take a tablet just by opening up and then you have your whole network. And in the garage. You also have a device that can take your car electricity. So the we had the we have the Jeep Cherokee that we converted and we put our motor, a tm four engine in there. And I had the luxury to drive it around and park it in the garage and connect the car to the house. And then now the car was actually a provider for the house. So you can imagine now if there's an outage your car can become your battery. So it's quite interesting and then the scientists done you know all kinds of simulation as we were there with their CEO  at the time, and all the management team, and we showed what we what we had, which led today to our first microgrid. So when Lac Megantic in Quebec had a big tragedy and a lot of people that died when the oil train derailed and so we had meetings with the mayor, fine. And we decided to spin that and having Lac Megantic like a futuristic city. And now we have, we are connecting. As we speak, we are connecting all these devices and all these houses that we've done. So we had to ensure when again, and now we have a copy paste version that are being built in Lac Megantic, of which we're going to be using all this technology. So quite exciting to see how we're turning it in now this is going to help in terms of electrification of the grid, actually,


Dan Seguin  25:52

it's very interesting. Okay, now, hoping you can shed light here. With electrification comes more demand on capex electricity grid, particularly during peak periods. What is your outlook telling you about forecasted demand? And what kind of infrastructure will be required, if any, to support the electric future?


David Murray  26:16

Yeah, so obviously, we've been looking at the possibilities,  if we want to go and have Quebec at achieving the GHG emission, there's going to be a need for reducing for increasing the level of electricity consumption. So our distributor is looking into this on a yearly basis to see how that growth is coming. And we've seen that growth over the past couple of years. So definitely if we want to achieve all the possibilities, not only for Quebec, but also for the different provinces, as we are large exporter of our energy, so I think there's going to be a great opportunities for us. So we're looking at different aspects. But before we go, actually in saying, we're going to produce and add capacity, the number one priority is actually to find ways to reduce the consumption. So energy efficiency is key. And this is something that we're looking into. So we started, we launched a sub company that's called Hilo which is going behind the meter is actually erasing the demand on peak timings, so And actually it's rewards. So we're asking people to participate, and they have the options to participate or not, but actually, if they got the equipment, it's because they want to use it. And it gives us you know, opportunities when there's high demand an opportunity to reduce our consumption and not use for example, buy electricity from external means, or start fossil peakers in order to supply the demand because there are a couple of hours during peak times that we have, we have challenges so that it's only a few hours. And we've launched that. And it's been very, very successful, actually. So now we can erase. So you can imagine that it's all it's a winner because it prevents you to invest. So push investments. And obviously, if if you do invest, there's going to be an impact on your rates. So there's got to this thing gonna pay off. So good for good for the rates, because we're, we're pushing investments. Second is good for the environment, because we're not building lines through forests. And it's never popular. I mean, he prayed everybody wants electricity, but nobody wants it in their yard. So it's, it's always, you know, a catch 22 trying to explain that to people. So that's key number three is actually it's good for the customer base. Because imagine that the end the consumer is reducing his bill at the end. So you're gonna say, Well, yeah, of course, he's reducing his power. But there's ways that we're programming this where you can pre-heat your house couple of hours before the peak dining, and then it goes through the peak, and it helps up everything. And that peak is very expensive, like for all the reasons we were saying earlier, so this is win win win. And this is something that we want to push towards, in terms of investment. Going forward, obviously, we have we've built our first solar park, so we have two solar parks that we started, Wind is becoming also very competitive. So but wind and solar is for energy, not for power, then people don't always make the difference between the energy and power. So energy is the consumption you have every every second that you're going but the power is when everybody gets home at five o'clock and puts everything on that then put all the breakers on then the consuming everything spikes. So this we have the sustain not only the energy that goes with the power that goes in, and that's that's where HILO is gonna is going to be a key into making making the future and we have very interesting projects coming with HILO and so now we started With thermostat for example, we're but we're coming with, with other stuff that we've built in our house. And Sherwinagan, that's going to change the way of the building. And if we can change the way of consuming the electricity.


Dan Seguin  30:11

Let's move on to the next question. hydro Quebec's road towards reconciliation has involved economic inclusion of the First Nations, and the creation of opportunities for current and future generations. wondering if you could talk to us about the importance of that relationship. And the 200 megawatt wind farm to be built in Quebec, Cote Nord region.


David Murray  30:39

Yeah, so obviously, working together with the communities is key. And we've been doing so for for many, many years. So we've done many projects throughout the Quebec province. So this is not new we have, you know, over 40 programe, that we over the last decades that we've signed up with the, with the different communities. So this is not new for us, and is the same thing for the 200 megawatts on Cote Nord all up with project. So obviously, as we see, there's going to be a need for energy and power going forward. So these are very important projects that we we are pushing, pushing through and working with the communities on a day to day basis is certainly a key aspect to make it work. And we've done so on this projects. And you can see that the now we're we're we're ready to install the then the wind farm and to have the energy produced for us. So this is key for us.


Dan Seguin  31:40

As stated earlier, David, we are in the midst of an energy transition. It encompasses transformation in power generation, transmission and distribution, as well as energy consumption habits worldwide. How is Hydro Quebec planning to seize growth opportunities in the province and beyond Canada's borders, like the power agreement in Massachusetts? What is again, the ultimate goal and vision?


David Murray  32:10

So when we started the plan a couple years ago, we had surpluses, you know, in the, in all the dams that we had, and we had the Romaine, the four dams in the Romaine river that was being built, and which was 1500 megawatts, obviously, when when we started if you go back couple years ago, we were seeing a huge growth in Quebec. This is why we had to build Romaine and that growth income as as timely as as we're expecting. So it gave us an opportunity to use that electricity and to share it with with our neighbors, which was we've done year over year, we're exporting about roughly 30 kilowatt hour of electricity, which is quite significant. And this is something that we're doing to you know, New Brunswick, Ontario, obviously, all the different states around us and north northeast. So this is this is key. So for us, it's great opportunity, it brings back money, you know, in the Quebec province obviously, but it also helps the different states and provinces to reduce their GHG emissions. So for us, this is quite an important deal for us as it It reduces our surplus brings back money, so it's good for the balance, commercial balance and the Quebec province and contributes to helping the government in terms of profitability, and this is money that goes back into the Quebec province. So these are projects that are key and in in making the GHG emission and bringing good profitability for the Quebec province. So very, very important for us.


Dan Seguin  33:49

Moving on, what role does energy storage play in your deployment and supply of renewable energy?


David Murray  33:58

Yeah, energy storage is is also very exciting. So we're talking about the Innovation Development so we've been working on a battery for the past couple years, I would say a mega watt hour battery so large size battery I would say if you can have an image it's like a container size that goes on a truck or so and these batteries are going to become so important. Because again, when you place these batteries at the right place in network, reduce congestion and it pushes the same logic, it pushes some investments that you need to do second aspect it's sometimes you have reserves on mine and you can remove that reserve also with with the battery, so batteries will become an important tool I would say as much as a transformer, for example, our power line so become the base into the grid of the future or the design grid of the future and So we have our own battery, which is as it's a, its own recipe, which we believe is safer than any battery that can exist, where it's so safe in our mind that we will actually put it on the roof of Hydro Quebec, in early 2022 you know, with solar panels and capture electricity, and you're never going to see this, if you go on the field, and you see these batteries that are existing, they're huge with, like, 4 backup systems, and so many protections, and you know, it's very heavy and very costly. So for us, we believe that our technology is going to become more and more present, because of its particularity of being safe. So it will be key. And you can see now, you know, all the vendors going out on the market. I mean, there's a there are a lot now asking for storage applications of which we've launched this is why we've launched another sub company. So we have a few but it's called EVLO. And this is a, this is actually a sub company that we want to use for our own network. So we've already deployed some in the on the Quebec network. But we've also won our first contract outside now. So we were installing as we speak in France right now, I would interject as a partner, so this is going to become bigger and bigger for us.


Dan Seguin  36:29

Okay, I'm wondering if you could now expand on opportunities and or challenges the pandemic brought to the forefront for Hydro Quebec? Has there been an impact on export and growth or any other surprises?


David Murray  36:47

Yeah, obviously, we had, like, everybody, it was a tough year. And we, we've, we've faced some reductions of volume, because obviously, when companies, you know, are stopping their production and everything, there is an impact. So we've seen a slight reduction on the company side and industrial side, they would say, residential will ramp up, obviously, because everybody's working from home so it transferred, but it's not the same so, they had an impact on, you know, bad credit, like any company, so we've done, it's roughly $90 million of impact that we had. So you know, people are having a hard time to pay their bills and everything. So we were present to try to help on that aspect. So we had to look at payment terms, also, we help them, you know, helping out payment terms, and we will also reduce our payment terms on our side. So, you know, to bring cash faster to the other company. So with the cash to cash cycle is a bit longer, but it was good for everybody. So we've done it for the community and different companies, and the different people in the Quebec province. The opportunities? Well, we've looked at the you know, resilience and be more independent with with more and more important on the greenhouse production, I would say. So this is where when we launched an initiative to reduce the rates on on greenhouse production in Quebec province, so the which is great. So we give a big, big reduction for people to produce, you know, local vegetables and fruits, which was, which was actually key. This is an example of, you know, decision that we've looked at to help out. And the other aspect, I would say, is for different projects that we're having, so for example, we've announced a major revamp of our dams, for example, and we re-questioned the bids that we had, and we have some other major suppliers to say, give it to give us different options, and what would be the cost if they would do for example, engineering in Quebec, instead of instead of being done outside outside the country. And we've made some changes in some some of the plans that we have based on that, either it was, you know, some engineering was done in Quebec or in Canada, then it was it was a better deal for us at the time to stimulate and give more work and towards the Quebec and Canada. And in terms of selection. So this is like the stuff that we've done. And now it creates a, you know, different mindset internally. And obviously we have we still have the same tendency to look into the different projects as we speak.


Dan Seguin  39:30

In addition to seizing growth opportunities in Quebec and beyond, increasing exports and introducing energy efficiency initiatives like HILO, Hydro Quebec, residential rates are the lowest in North America. And business rates are always ranking among the most competitive on the continent. How have you successfully struck this balance?


David Murray  39:55

Well, the balance obviously we've looked, again, the base that was done In the last couple of years was asked to carry. So finding the ways to keep the rates as low as possible is, is something internally that we're making a large focus has been a lot of changes that happened in Hydro Quebec and the last couple of years. So sometimes, I mean, I always say that there's two major transition at Hydro Quebec that we live right now. The first one is the energy transition, the second one is within Hydro Quebec's wall. So all the synergy that has been done in the efficiency that has been done, bringing lean thinking in the way we're doing business. So, you know, we have over 2600 cells of lean right now a cell would be, you know, employing employees, with their, with their managers and up in the office. So, where we have stand up meetings, and we have six pillars, and we're looking at, you know, health and safety and productivity and employee in ward issues and raising issues to the next level, if it's not done and bring it back in the next day. So a lot of work that has been done, and we can't keep take that for granted. And, but it's been, it's been a huge transformation that happened. And this, this has made the significant changes and helping out in keeping our rates down. So year over year, you know, you're facing up salary increase, you're facing up, you know, material buy purchasing increase. So you have to balance this out. And this is our way to to do to do differently. And the second thing is innovation, obviously, still trying new ways, you know, where we were talking about drones and all these technologies, obviously, they're they're helping out in making that bounce. And for us, it's, it's very important that we keep these rates down, we're happy. We're proud, and we want to, we want to keep it this way. So it's good for people in Quebec, it's bringing opportunities for businesses to come and install themselves in Quebec for not only the rate but also because it's green. So we have more and more demand, for example, data centers, for example. So these are great opportunities for Quebec, and it creates at the same time, important, you know, very good job in technology. So this is something that we, we push and we want to keep going.


Dan Seguin  42:15

Okay. Finally, the rise in digital technologies has brought sweeping changes in how we all live. As we know, Millennials are now North America's largest cohort. They have now overtaken boomers as the largest population group in North America. These digital natives grew up with chatbots, smart speakers and smartphones. With that in mind, how has Hydro Quebec engaged with this generation? Where do you see the greatest opportunities for Hydro Quebec?


David Murray  42:50

Yeah, it's a major shift. And I live it at home to, so I have a millennials and I have a younger generation pushing. So she calls me that the boomer, I keep telling, I'm not a boomer, but I guess I'm acting like a boomer, I don't know. But I guess it is important to, to think differently, and to bring them on board, without forgetting the base without forgetting what the boomer,  our generation is done fast, I think, you know, it's an evolution. And there's nothing good or bad, it's always the mixture of things that makes it better. But obviously, we have to think differently, because it's a different, you know, technology is all over the place, whether the younger generation, so there's been a lot of changes in to our communication team. This team is quite amazing. Keeping connection, through media, web, you name it, Facebook, and all these new software that see that that's where my daughter's gonna say, I'm an old generation, because I named Facebook and Facebook is not for us, but it is what it is Snapchat and all this stuff. But so we've done a lot to keep the connections. Our social media team is actually amazing. So we've done quite an impression, sometimes answering some of the questions answering some of the tough questions were sometimes being criticized, but bringing a twist, which is attracting the younger generation and we're getting more and more popular and in some of these tweaks that's happening on the web. So we've had it also added two youtubers into our company. So two guys trying to explain to the younger generation, you know, how electricity works and I was saying about connecting the old and the future. It is important because nobody really understands how electricity is produced. They just put the switch on and you know, they believe it's happening from from the sky, I guess. So, you know, to make them remember that the how This was built in the past sort of pioneers has provided us that luxury that we have here in Quebec. So this is, this is actually very, very interesting to see and having these young guys through YouTube, explain to them, you know, how it works and how electricity is produced so to bring the connection between the the old world and the New World, I would say that. And the rest, like I was saying, bringing them together with the social, we have over 20 social media accounts that the team is working on, and trying to connect the new generation and we have them in-house as they're coming in house in DC, what's going on there, they're helping out the old, older generation like me to connect with the younger generation and obviously, pushes the boundaries. And it's great, because they're also pushing us into different direction, which is, which is key because at the end, you know, they want to come and work for a company that's innovative. And that's, you know, to the level of what they're expecting this we have to we have to adapt.


Dan Seguin  46:00

Okay, David, are you ready to close us off with some rapid fire questions?


David Murray  46:07

Anything - That's good.


Dan Seguin  46:09

What is your favorite word?


David Murray  46:12



Dan Seguin  46:13

What is your ideal electric vision for Hydro Quebec's future?


David Murray  46:20

Electric vision is also is everything that's energy transition. IoT,  behind the meters efficient energy efficiency, I would say,


Dan Seguin  46:30

what is the one thing you can't live without?


David Murray  46:34

My phone


Dan Seguin  46:35

What habit or hobby? Have you picked up during a shelter in place?


David Murray  46:41

You know, this is quite interesting. I guess the older generation. Two things. Number one is vinyl record. So I don't know for reasons I started to go back on vinyl. And so and once in a while a good old way of going too easy. Now, you know, it just click and it comes from the cloud. But just to get up and and put the vinyl and you know, after like five minutes, it's done. You got to stand up and go, but I guess it's my old age can kick in. So that's number one. And number two is actually, you know, tastes from the past. So my, my spouse was asking me what I wanted for Christmas. And I said I want a Atari 2600. And she said what? You mean? You mean the PlayStation five? Right? I said no, no, I want Atari 2600. She's where the hell do I buy this? Five? No, it just was just fine. And she did. So now just going back in time. And so I don't know. I guess pandemic has brought us back to our roots and to the some of the basics so I don't know, must make me feel comfortable to play pitfall I guess during Christmas, I'll have never played since but it's okay. I have it if I want to play it. And it's mine told everybody Don't touch it. Don't break it.


Dan Seguin  48:03

Now, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?


David Murray  48:10

Fly? I guess it goes faster. The typical, you know, I've asked that question. Everybody breaks, it breaks, it breaks the mold. And by saying I want to cure all illness. And then nobody else can speak after that. So that would be probably the political answer. But fly is my answer.


Dan Seguin  48:24

And David, if you could turn back time, and talk to your 18 year old self? What would you tell him?


David Murray  48:32

Don't change anything. Just don't change anything.


Dan Seguin  48:38

And lastly, what do you currently find most interesting about public life?


David Murray  48:46

Most Interesting? I'll be honest, like and public life is actually sometimes the difficulty of media I would say. So. You know, I took it back is like 13 times in the papers every day, and sometimes not the way for for for other reasons than good reasons. I would say not all the time. But it's a I would say that's probably the thing that's after five years in the industry when you coming from a private company. You're coming public, obviously, you know what, well, I didn't know what to expect. Everybody told me, but it is what it is. And it's, it's okay. I mean, it's part of it's part of the business.


Dan Seguin  49:26

Well, David, we've reached the end of another episode of The think energy podcasts. Thank you so much for joining me today and I hope you had a lot of fun. Cheers, my friend. Thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of The think energy podcast. For past episodes, make sure you visit our website Lastly, if you found value in this podcast, be sure to subscribe. Anyway, this podcast is a wrap. Cheers, everyone.