Premier Kathleen Wynne is raising the possibility that Ontario may buy more electricity from Quebec, a move environmentalists have been urging her government to pursue.
The Liberals need to examine the issue, but any changes would have to be a good deal for Ontario, she said during a joint press conference Thursday with Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard.
She suggested importing more Quebec power may help spur industrial development in hard-hit northern Ontario. Opposition critics have long complained that high hydro rates are driving businesses out of the north.
"I don't know what the details would be, but I think it is something we need to look at," Wynne said.
Ontario only imports power from Quebec when it's being offered at the same price or lower than domestic generation, said Alexandra Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Independent Electricity System Operator.
Last year, it imported 4.2 terawatt hours of electricity from Quebec and more than 85 per cent of imports were from Quebec. The price was 4.09 cents per kilowatt hour at 3 p.m. Thursday, she said.
Publicly owned Ontario Power Generation, which also generates power from hydroelectric and natural gas, is paid an average rate of 5.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
OPG has three hydroelectric projects in the works in northern Ontario, including the $2.6-billion Lower Mattagami project in partnership with the Moose Cree First Nation, which will add another 438 megawatts of capacity to Ontario's energy grid.
Ontario's long-term energy plan, which the government released in late 2013, said the province will consider pursuing contracts for clean imports from other jurisdictions, so long as it's cheaper than domestic alternatives and meets the province's electricity needs.
"Ontario will continue to rely on the wholesale market to provide flexibility and to balance power flows on a short-term basis," it said.
"However, an import arrangement with a neighbour to guarantee the firm delivery of clean power could offer a cost-effective alternative to building domestic supply."
In addition to Quebec, Ontario has interconnections with Manitoba, Minnesota, Michigan and New York state.
Some environmental groups have been urging the governing Liberals to import more Quebec power, saying it's cheaper than domestic nuclear generation, which they see as harmful to the environment.
OPG is planning to embark on a multibillion-dollar refurbishment of its Darlington Nuclear Station in 2016, which they say will make nuclear power more costly than Quebec imports.
Ontario Clean Air Alliance Research released a report in June saying a long-term contract to buy surplus Quebec electricity could have huge economic spinoffs for both provinces.
Ontario has the capacity to import far more power than it currently does from Quebec, which will be looking to export more surplus energy, it said.