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The government of Quebec is temporarily suspending the sale of power to crypto-mining companies and asking the province’s energy board to create some guidelines governing the process.

Quebec’s inexpensive surplus energy has made it an attractive location for companies in the business of “mining” for cryptocurrency – a power-intensive process that involves using lightning-fast computer hardware to solve complex mathematical equations in the hopes of being rewarded with virtual currencies such as bitcoin.

Hydro-Québec says it has received requests for 15,000 megawatts of power from crypto-miners and that it isn’t feasible for the utility to fulfill all of those demands.

The hydro utility says it will be filing an application with the Régie de l’énergie, the province’s energy board, in the coming days, recommending that a block of 500 megawatts be set aside for crypto-mining companies.

“Not everybody is going to be able to be connected,” said Jonathan Côté, a spokesman for Hydro-Québec.

The power utility and the provincial government are asking the board to come up with guidelines that would help Hydro-Québec determine how to select which projects to supply power to. In the absence of such rules, Mr. Côté said Hydro-Québec would be obligated to supply power to all crypto-miners.

“That’s just not possible – we would have to buy extra capacity,” Mr. Côté said.

”If we had to build new capacity or buy extra power, then the rates for everybody in Quebec would go up because of this. This is something that we can’t accept. We need to protect the rates of all our customers.”

In its submission to the energy board, Hydro-Québec plans to suggest that projects be chosen based on how many jobs they plan to create and how much they are willing to pay for the power.

The utility also wants a provision that would allow it to request that crypto-miners shut down their power during winter cold snaps, when the province no longer has a surplus of energy.

Mr. Côté said he hopes that a decision will be rendered by Sept. 15, so that Hydro-Québec doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to sell some of its surplus energy.

“We know that the longer it takes, the more customers we might lose,” Mr. Côté said. “This is definitely one of our concerns. We want this to go quickly.”

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