Energy research for a sustainable future.


Over the years, the Helios Centre has realized a number of studies and projects addressing climate change. In addition to the specific projects mentioned here, most of the Helios Centre’s work is focussed on thinking through the low-carbon electricity transition, in all of its aspects.

In the mid 2000s the Helios Centre, led by Helena Olivas, realized several studies in relation to the Kyoto Protocol, including a guide to the institutional requirements of the Clean Development Mechanism, for developing countries, and a guide to the COP/MOP process, which was published in three languages.

Restructured Rivers, a book-length study prepared by Philip Raphals at the request of the International Rivers Network, explored many aspects of hydropower and its interface with competitive markets, including in a review of the science regarding GHG emissions from reservoirs.

More recently, in collaboration with Rick Hendriks, the Centre produced a contribution to the Acting on Climate Change project, led by Dr. Catherine Potvin of McGill University, which argued for caution to ensure that the goal of a 100% carbon-free electric system does not produce unacceptable consequences in other dimensions. In Canada, the strategies proposed are often based on a huge build-out of large-scale hydropower, with unacceptable consquences.

« This would constitute a high-cost path in economic, ecological, and social terms, initiating and perpetuating conflicts with Aboriginal peoples, while driving out investment in other low-carbon renewables that are modular, incremental and declining in cost. Canadian ratepayers would find themselves unable to take advantage of these increasingly affordable alternatives, being locked into paying down the high-cost capital legacy of large-scale hydroelectric projects. »

Related Projects

Climate Change
Muskrat Falls Labrador

Muskrat Falls (Labrador)

The Helios Centre has been an active participant in the debates surrounding the Muskrat Falls Project (the Lower Churchill Project) in Labrador (NL) since 2012 and its impacts on the electric system in Labrador.

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The Eastmain 1A/Rupert Diversion Project

The Eastmain 1A/Rupert Diversion Project

In 2005 and 2006, the Centre was involved in the environmental assessment of Hydro-Québec’s controversial Eastmain 1A/Rupert Diversion project, first as a consultant to the federal panel, and later as an expert engaged by the three Cree communities directly affected by the project (Chisasibi, Nemaska and Waskaganish). While the joint review panel did support the project, which ultimately was constructed, it was remarkable in that one of the three members dissented, finding that the environmental and social harms the project would cause were not justified by its economic benefits.

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Low-Impact Hydropower

On behalf of the Helios Centre, Philip Raphals has acted as an advisor to the governing board of the Low Impact Hydropower Institute since 2000, and currently serves as chair of its Renewable Markets Advisory Panel. The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) is a US non-profit organization created out of a collaboration between American Rivers, a river conservation organization, and Green Mountain Energy Resources, an electricity marketer. It has published detailed, science-based criteria for identifying hydro projects which are low-impact, based on their operations.

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Great Whale River

The Great Whale Project

The societal debates around the Great Whale Project, a 3,000-MW installation proposed by Hydro-Québec for the Great Whale River, bordering the Cree and Inuit territories in Northern Quebec, in a sense paved the way for the creation of the Helios Centre. In the early 1990s, Executive Director Philip Raphals acted as Deputy Scientific Coordinator of the body created to carry out a joint environmental assessment of this project. The multi-disciplinary team led by Dr. Michel Bouchard developed a unique crosscutting roadmap (the “Guidelines”) for the assessment. The project was withdrawn by the government after the Crown Corporation failed to provide the information required by the panels.

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