TORONTO (AP) _ Ontario Hydro, one of the largest public utilities in North America, will be stripped of its electric-power monopoly within two years, the provincial government said Thursday.

Under the province's plan, Ontario Hydro would be split into three companies. One would generate electricity, another would transmit it to customers and the third would manage Ontario's electricity business.

``We're proposing to move away from a monopoly in generation and retail to a new era of competition,'' said Energy Minister Jim Wilson. ``We want to introduce customer choice and establish a new system of independent regulation.''

Ontario Hydro has had a monopoly on electric power in Canada's most populous province for 91 years.

For the past two years, however, the government has been under pressure from business groups, municipalities and some environment groups to open the market to competition.