TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario, keen to get more of its electricity from renewable energy sources, said on Monday it would spend C$2.3 billion ($2.1 billion) over the next three years to expand and upgrade its power transmission network.
"Enhancing our transmission grid is critical to taking advantage of green energy," said George Smitherman, Ontario's minister of energy and infrastructure.
"Resources like wind and hydro aren't often where the people are, and this plan will ensure we can bring renewable green power to the people of Ontario," he said in a statement.
Smitherman, who made the announcement at the opening ceremony of the Canadian Wind Energy Association's annual conference in Toronto, said the investment is expected to create 20,000 jobs.
Ontario, Canada's most populous province and biggest energy consumer, is widely regarded as having a "green friendly" agenda. It has pledged to eliminate coal-fired power generation by 2014 and promised to generate more power from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass.
"This is a huge boost to the continued development of wind energy as a viable renewable energy source in Ontario," said Robert Hornung, the Canadian Wind Energy Association's president.
"This plan opens the door for the wind industry to grow and create new green economy jobs," Hornung said.
Wind energy in Canada has a capacity to generate 2,854 megawatts -- enough to power more than 860,000 homes and equivalent to about one percent of Canada's total electricity demand.
In June, the province suspended multibillion-dollar plans to build two new nuclear reactors, citing worries over costs and uncertainty over the future of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, the federally owned nuclear technology corporation.
The Canadian government is looking to restructure AECL, and may split it up or sell parts of its operations.
Reporting by Nicole Mordant and Susan Taylor; editing by Rob Wilson