The financial impact of the pandemic becomes clearer at Hydro-Québec

The uncertain development of the economic recovery prevents us from seeing precisely what Hydro-Québec will be able to pay as dividend for the year 2020, but its new CEO, Sophie Brochu, already mentions an impact of “a few hundred million” on the annual profit of the crown corporation.

A month after the power producer said the expected net profit of $ 2.9 billion is unlikely to be achievable, Brochu, who has been in office since the beginning of April, listed several factors that will have the effect of compress Hydro-Québec’s revenues and warned that it will take a month or two to establish a clearer scenario. The crown corporation pays 75% of its net profit to the government.

“It strikes. As we say with us, it spanks hard. In a year like 2020, we can think of a few hundred million dollars in impact on earnings. Until June, we already had 130 million less fair income in Quebec, “said Ms. Brochu at a conference organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. “The law of gravity, we can’t fight that. What we can do, must do, is manage our operating and operating expenses as best we can. And we have to take care of our world, that is to say our employees and our customers, “she said, referring to the relief measures for customers in difficult financial situations.

Already in the first quarter, net profit was down compared to last year as the winter of 2020 was milder, which resulted in lower heating bills. Export prices were also down slightly. As for the pandemic, Hydro-Québec indicated last month that it caused a 3% increase in residential consumption between March 13 and the middle of May, but a collapse of 8 to 11% in the various business niches.

Asked for more details during a subsequent press conference, Ms. Brochu, who left the management of Énergir at the end of 2019, said that “people can do 56 scenarios of where we are going land, “but the task is difficult. “When I say a few hundred million dollars, I’m not talking about a billion. It’s not that I want to hide anything, it’s that we have no idea of ​​the pace at which the Quebec economy will resume. We will have a better idea in the next month or two months. “

As soon as she took office, Ms. Brochu put forward the idea of ​​putting Hydro-Québec to work in reviving the economy, simply because the Crown corporation is a major player in a sensitive sector. Hydro-Québec will take “small risks,” she said. “There are initiatives that we may be able to deploy a little faster than we would have deployed otherwise. When we are going to talk about charging stations, electrification of transport, what I call the framework on which various initiatives will sit, we will want to make sure that we are not late compared to willingness. “

In particular, governments will invest in energy transition projects after the crisis and Hydro-Québec will have to be ready to “accept new charges,” said Brochu. “For example, the refurbishment of power plants on the island of Montreal is an example. The deployment of charging stations is an example. Some research and commercial deployment initiatives, perhaps also another example. His projects on autonomous networks will also be accelerated.

Feminine presence and diversity

Among the actions taken by Ms. Brochu is the appointment of two women at the management table, one of whom is responsible for technology (Johanne Duhaime) while the other (Claudine Bouchard) is in charge of the evolution of the business and strategic supplies. Senior management is thus entering a “parity zone” without yet being egalitarian, she said. She also wants to “add people who have seen other forms of energy.”

“The fact remains that my steering committee table is still white, very white, and there is no doubt that this situation will have to be remedied,” said Brochu. According to Hydro-Québec, the number of visible minority and ethnic employees increased by 50% from 2015 to 2019 and reached 8.2% of all personnel (15.7% in the metropolitan area). “This is a ratio that we are going to change. It’s not because it’s in tune with the times, but because it’s smart. The target is 19 percent, the organization said on Twitter in the afternoon.

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