As part of the process of obtaining Hydropower Sustainability Standard certification, Hydro‑Québec has retained the services of three independent accredited assessors to assess the operating practices of the Eastmain-1 development, which includes Eastmain-1 and Bernard-Landry generating stations and Paix des Braves reservoir, and the Rupert diversion compared with the best international practices in the hydropower sector outlined in the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.

Gold-level certification under the Hydropower Sustainability Standard for Eastmain-1 development.

Steps and results

In September 2022, a team of three independent accredited assessors visited the Eastmain-1 development in the territory of the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government in northern Québec to measure their compliance with the Hydropower Sustainability Standard and, where appropriate, to provide a recommendation regarding certification.

The facilities subject to this assessment are Eastmain-1 generating station, Bernard-Landry generating station and Paix des Braves reservoir, as well as the structures related to the partial diversion of the Rivière Rupert. These facilities are part of the Eastmain–Sarcelle–Rupert complex. Eastmain-1 generating station and Bernard-Landry generating station were commissioned in 2006 and 2012, respectively, in Cree territory, and they were built based on a new approach involving cooperation with the region’s Indigenous communities.

The assessment team examined the documents, visited the facilities and the affected areas and interviewed numerous Hydro‑Québec employees, as well as external stakeholders and land users.

Following the assessment, it was determined that the facilities meet all the minimum requirements and a sufficient number of advanced requirements of the standard. We can therefore issue a Gold certification status recommendation.

These facilities are a major source of electricity with very low levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite the vast area they cover and the transformation of the associated ecosystems, their design and the mitigation measures put in place have succeeded in limiting the environmental and social impacts to acceptable levels.

The project also contributed significantly to local socio-economic development through an extensive fee program and other benefits shared with the Indigenous population. Working conditions, safety issues, corporate governance and procurement are all well managed.

The overall level of transparency and cooperation is impressive and the Crees, government organizations and Hydro‑Québec have established productive, resilient relationships despite their different roles and perspectives. This approach serves as a good example for other countries where relationships between stakeholders and hydropower companies are still often marred by conflict.

Despite the high overall performance, the assessment also identified certain shortcomings and the potential for improvement in areas such as communications, climate resilience and water quality. We hope that Hydro‑Québec will take these findings into consideration in operating its vast fleet of hydroelectric generating stations, as this would expand the impact of the certification.

Lead Assessor

Summary of the assessment results based on the Hydropower Sustainability Standard’s 12 topics.

Assessment results based on the Hydropower Sustainability Standard’s 12 topics

All of the standard’s minimum requirements were respected and the advanced requirements were fully met for eight topics. For the remaining three topics, 83% and 87% of the advanced requirements were met. One topic is not applicable to the Eastmain-1 development.

Consultation process

As for any Hydropower Sustainability Standard assessment, the assessment team, Hydro‑Québec and the Hydropower Sustainability Council encouraged stakeholders to examine the conclusions of the assessment and to share their feedback. The preliminary assessment report was subject to a 60‑day stakeholder comment period, from May 29 to July 28, 2023. On Hydro‑Québec's initiative, this report was submitted for prior review by the representatives of the various Cree communities who sit on the Monitoring Committee.

Short video summarizing the certification exercise