From balance comes sustainability

Michel Letellier explains how the balance between social, environmental, and economic considerations forms the basis for a sustainable business model.

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Michel Letellier has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Innergex since 2007.


Innergex seems to have flourished in recent years; what about in 2012?

In 2012, we brought two new facilities into commercial operation, on time and on budget. One was Stardale, our first solar farm, and the other was Gros-Morne (Phase II), the last of five wind farms developed by our Cartier Wind Energy joint venture. We also acquired two hydroelectric facilities in British Columbia, bringing the total number of sites in operation to 28, in three energy sources and four different jurisdictions. Ten years ago, we had seven hydroelectric facilities, with all but one located in Québec. During 2012, we also entered negotiations to acquire several assets from Hydromega, a private power producer with activities in Québec and Ontario. We hope to conclude these negotiations and further expand our portfolio of assets in 2013.

How would you describe Innergex’s mission today?

Our mission really hasn’t changed since the Company was created in 1990. The course we set then remains absolutely relevant today. We aim to increase our production of renewable energy by developing and operating high-quality facilities while respecting the environment and serving the best interests of the host communities, our partners, and our investors.

What has enabled you to remain successful over the last 22 years?

Innergex’s success is founded on developing good projects, which become good operating facilities. For us, a good project is one that is accepted by the local community, respectful of the environment, and economically viable both for us and for the public utilities we service; in other words, a project that balances social, environmental, and economic imperatives – or if you prefer, people, planet, and profits.

Can you explain how these different imperatives influence your activities?

From its beginnings, Innergex has placed social acceptability at the core of its business model. We consult local communities, structuring our projects to include shared ownership or revenues, local job creation, local content requirements, or other special considerations in support of local tourist and recreational activities.

Over the years, we have demonstrated leadership and innovation in sharing the economic benefits of our projects with local communities and First Nations, often creating industry standards for others to follow. We have also proven our capacity to create lasting partnerships with local communities and First Nations across the country – an industry trend we expect will accelerate in the future.

As we all know, any economic activity will have an impact on the environment, but measures can and should be taken to avoid or minimize this impact. Independent power producers must abide by strict federal and provincial regulations designed to protect the environment, from project conception to site operation and restoration. In this area, too, we have demonstrated leadership and innovation in meeting or exceeding the highest environmental standards.

Where do these three imperatives intersect?

There are in fact myriad social and environmental considerations included in crafting a project to be submitted to a public utility under a request for proposals. The proposal must also include a price for the electricity to be produced. Of course, this price must be competitive for the project to be selected. At the same time, this price must take into account the social acceptability of the project, distributions to partners and local community stakeholders, and strict environmental standards in order for the project to be well received. And if there is to be a project at all, this price must also be sufficient for the project to be economically viable.

In other words, the necessary balance between social, environmental, and economic considerations – which together compose the true cost of energy production – must be reflected in the price for the electricity produced.

And why is that important?

When we create this balance, we achieve lasting success. Renewable energy facilities, and hydro in particular, have a very long life span – 25 years in the case of wind and solar, but well over 50 years – even 100 years – in the case of hydro. In keeping with Innergex’s vision of providing sustainable energy for a greener future, we want to ensure that we can continue developing and operating high-quality renewable energy facilities, and for a very long time.