The deregulation of the energy market in Ontario may mean a boost for alternative sources of power such as wind and solar energy.

"The fact that you now have choice and you can chose what products you want to get from the electricity market will go a long way to providing some impetus for getting green power produced," says Patterson.

On the shore of Lake Ontario, an hour east of Toronto, the biggest wind turbine in North America towers above the nuclear reactors next to it. The 40 metre blades generate enough electricity to power 600 homes. The tower is operated by Ontario Power Generation.

Patterson says British Energy is about to invest in a wind farm in the area and other investors are waiting in the wings.

"For wind, there's a lot of activity out in the countryside securing landrights for potential windfarms... they're waiting for the market to start demanding this stuff and then they'll put things up fairly quickly."

Toronto Hydro, owned by the city, has plans to produce green power through a local co-op.

"For as little as five dollars more a month you are guaranteed that 55 kilowatt hours of green electricity will be put onto the grid," says Joyce McLaren of Toronto Hydro.

"We know there's interest. How big that interest is remains to be seen."

Coal-fired plants offset green power gains

Environmentalists agree deregulation should boost the amount of green power in the province but they have one caution. They are wary of how much of a benefit those power sources can provide in light of the province's coal-fired generators.

Greenpeace says the plants produce five per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

"When you sell a coal-fired plant to a private sector company, the incentive for that company is to make more power and sell as much as they can, which means they'll burn more coal around the clock," warms Jamie Heath of Greenpeace.

Heath would like to see restrictions on coal use. Ontario's energy minister, Chris Stockwell, dismisses those concerns. He says no one is interested in buying the coal-fired plants, yet.

Environmentalists say the province shouldn't rely on consumer demand to shore up green power. Instead they should just incorporate a variety of energy sources into their electricity system.

Some provinces have already incorporated wind energy into their grid from Prince Edward Island to Quebec to Alberta to British Columbia.

Cowley Ridge in southwestern Alberta is the site of Canada's first commercial wind farm. The turbines generate enough electricity to power 7,000 homes.

When it was launched in 1998, 3,000 households were signed up. Now, it has more than doubled with each home paying an extra $7.50 on average for using wind power.