New England renewables + Canadian hydropower

A pathway to clean electricity in 2050

Our study shows that by viewing Canadian hydropower as a baseload source of electricity—or indeed a source of electricity at all—you’re not taking full advantage of what that resource can provide.

Emil Dimanchev

In planning for a carbon-free electric power system in 2050, U.S. states in New England have looked to hydropower imported from Quebec as one source of clean electricity alongside wind and solar and others. But engaging Canadian hydropower strictly as an electricity supplier may not be the best way to go. An MIT analysis shows that two-way exchanges between the regions could yield significant benefits. Under such an arrangement, Quebec sends electricity south to New England to meet demand when wind and solar aren’t producing enough power. When they produce an excess, New England sends electricity north to cover demand in Quebec, allowing the hydro systems to pause and reservoirs to refill with water. The hydro system thus provides energy storage—over hours or days or months—and both regions benefit: Two-way trading lowers the cost of decarbonization and accelerates the process. Based on their findings, the researchers suggest that such interregional cooperation could prove beneficial wherever hydropower resources are available.



Emil Dimanchev Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Joshua Hodge MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research
John Parsons Senior Lecturer

Sloan School of Management