Hydro-Québec has no plans to bury power lines, president says

Hydro-Québec has once again buried the idea of putting its cables underground, after thousands of Quebecers were left without power following Friday's storm.

Éric Martel, the president and CEO of Hydro-Québec, said burying the cables would be expensive — and that it wouldn't necessarily prevent wide-scale blackouts.

"There's a lot of other downsides when you bury the cable," he said. "It's not a fair assumption to say if we bury the cable we won't have any [outages], because there will still be outages, and clearly we have to be mindful of that."

"Everybody thinks it's going to solve everything, but it's not."

Martel said that Hydro-Québec is looking at other ways of improving the distribution network, such as redesigning the electrical posts, adjusting the cables, and looking at how trees are cut near power lines.

At the height of Friday's storm, almost a million homes and businesses did not have power across Quebec. About 22,000 were still in the dark on Tuesday.

Martel did not shut the door on burying cables in the future.

"The technology will evolve. Maybe in five years, the answer will be different," he acknowledged. 

"But at this stage, that's where we are."

The municipality of Dollard-des-Ormeaux previously pushed for Hydro-Québec to bury a three-kilometre-long stretch of power lines that ran between two substations, to no success. 

Hydro-Québec said at the time that it would increase the cost of a $15-million project by $45 million.

Two years ago, Hydro did agree to put part of a power line that goes through the Hereford forest, in the town of Saint-Herménégilde, underground.

Locals had urged the utility to bury the line because they did not want it to run through the forest.