At the impetus of INRS (Institut National de Recherche Scientifique), an international cooperation agreement has been forged between Quebec and Iceland. Under the agreement, which was signed on October 8, 2016, in Reykjavik, Iceland, in the presence of Quebec premier Philippe Couillard, the parties will launch research projects to foster development of sustainable energy for communities and industrial projects in northern regions and increase the economic competitiveness of both nations.
After meetings addressing the scientific challenges of northern development, the similarities observed between Iceland and Quebec (northern environment, hydraulicity, and the potential of certain energy sources) opened the door for strategic research into diversifying energy. The complementary expertise developed by both nations underpins the agreement. Icelanders have become experts in geothermal electricity, and Quebec is a leader in hydroelectricity. Both are leaders in the production of sustainable energy.
The agreement involves INRS (the instigator and main institution in the cooperation agreement), Université Laval, the University of Reykjavik, the University of Iceland, Landsvirkjun (Iceland’s national power company), the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the Hydro-Québec research institute (IREQ), and the Ouranos Consortium. The agreement draws on a long history of cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Although hydroelectricity is the main source of power for both nations, their approaches to hydrography are very different. They both specialize in specific techniques and stand to benefit from a sharing of knowledge. While Iceland has embraced geothermal energy for industrial and residential use, as well as in public and commercial buildings, Quebec has developed expertise in heat pumps used mainly in homes. Of course, given its particular geology, Iceland has a heat source very close to the ground surface. But new techniques will allow Quebec to turn to geothermal energy in communities that currently rely on polluting thermal power plants for their heat–one more step toward energy security and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. Today’s focus is on diversifying and combining energy sources, developing energy recovery systems, and implementing power grids that are inexpensive to install and operate.
From an academic standpoint, INRS seeks to create dual-degree graduate programs that offer advantages for certain Earth and Water Science students: As an Arctic territory that’s more accessible than Quebec, Iceland is a veritable open-air laboratory in these research fields. Numerous other subjects linked to energy will emerge from this collaboration. As such, Université Laval and its partners (including INRS and various other universities) have created strategic associations that will benefit this agreement.
Whether for pooling expertise in hydrogeological modelling, sedimentary basin analysis, or resource characterization, this agreement will rally the research community around the strategic potential clean energy holds for nations that embrace it.
Image credit: By Dieter Schweizer (Obersulm, Germany) – taken by author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1159296