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Quebec puts its power on the line

Mar 16, 2010- McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Larry Rulison - Albany Times Union, N.Y.

Quebec is New York state's largest trading partner, but what it really wants to do is sell the Empire State lots of clean power.

Nathalie Normandeau, Quebec's deputy premier and minister of natural resources and wildlife, was in Albany Monday speaking to state political leaders, including Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, about energy policy and trade.

"It's important for us to establish a long-term dialog," said Normandeau, who was on her first visit to Albany and also met with Frank Murray, president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and Garry Brown, chairman of the state Public Service Commission. "It's important for us to collaborate."

Normandeau's visit comes just days after Hydro-Quebec, the government-owned utility, signed a memorandum of understanding with Vermont's two largest utilities to sign long-term contracts to provide competitively priced, clean electricity through 2038.

"For the consumers, it's very good news," Normandeau said of the Vermont deal.

The deputy premier wouldn't say if similar contracts could be struck with New York's utilities. She said her goal is to build political ties with state leaders. She has also invited state Sens. George Maziarz and Darrel Aubertine, the top leaders of the Senate's energy and telecommunications committee, to Quebec to tour some of Hydro-Quebec's facilities.

Hydro power from Quebec is extremely important to New York state, which needs more power for the New York City area and is trying to boost renewable's share of the energy the state consumes. But the state also has a problem with transmission line congestion, and getting power from upstate New York to downstate will be difficult without new transmission capacity.

Normandeau said that Hydro-Quebec is not associated with the Champlain-Hudson Power Express project proposed by a Toronto development firm to bring power from Canada to New York City. However, Quebec has been very proactive in investing in transmission in the past.

"I'm very satisfied with today," Normandeau said. "These meetings were very important for us and for the future."