Under the Kyoto protocol, Canada made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse emissions in 2010 by 6%, compared to 1990. So far, Québec is the only province that has succeeded in holding its greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 level, due to its use of hydro power. Moreover, projects proposed in the Hydro-Québec strategic plan (totalling 14TWh) would make it possible to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 2%.
Hydro-Québec has achieved significant environmental gains by developing hydro projects. In developing James Bay for example, Québec was able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions between 1971 and 1989 by 17%, while the other Canadian provinces and American states increased theirs by 55% and 19%, respectively. Large reservoirs release 29 times less greenhouse gases than fuel oil and 34 times less than coal and no acid rain.
For comparison, the output of the La Grande Complex is 85TWh per year, equivalent to burning about 40M tons of coal. It takes on average 455,000 tons of coal to produce 1TWh of electricity. Environmental experts have pointed out that by developing half of its unexploited hydroelectric potential, Canada could reduce its projected increases of greenhouse gas emissions by 16%.