Despite a plan announced three years ago to invest millions into renewable energy, the president of Thunder Bay Hydro says it may be a while before any new green energy projects start up in the city.

Thunder Bay Hydro President Rob Mace

Thunder Bay Hydro president Rob Mace says the province pays less for solar power than it used to. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The company has so far invested $4 million into renewable energy projects — less than one-third of the $14-million joint plan with the city announced in 2010.

But Hydro president Rob Mace said the business case for investing in renewable energy no longer exists because the province pays less for solar power than it used to.

"Economically, these types of projects are less attractive,” Mace said. “So, we're looking for other opportunities. I'm not sure we're going to see them. And, I'm not sure we're going to see additional renewable investment in Thunder Bay by anyone really — not just us."

Profits will go to city

The plan has seen the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of city-owned buildings and properties as well as the construction of a methane-fuelled power generating station at the city’s landfill.

The final set of solar panels, installed at Port Arthur Arena, was completed on Thursday.

Mace said the projects should give a return on investment of about 10 per cent — money that will go to the city.

Coun. Iain Angus said there’s no decision yet on how that money will be spent, but predicted it would be earmarked for infrastructure investment, capital projects or reserve funds.

'I don't think we're going to hit that $14 million. I think we'll be at the $4 million we're at. If we can get some more projects going in the next couple of years, great.' - Thunder Bay Hydro President Rob Mace

"The fact that we've got revenue coming in that we know we can count on on a contractual basis for 20 years gives us a level of comfort that we haven't had in the past," Angus said.

Mace said Thunder Bay Hydro's long-term goal had been to build more solar panel installations on roofs, but now doesn't think that is likely to happen. 

“I don't think we're going to hit that $14 million. I think we'll be at the $4 million we're at. If we can get some more projects going in the next couple of years, great,” he said.

But Mace said if the business outlook for renewable energy were to change, the city is equipped to expand beyond the thousands of solar panels currently installed on six municipal buildings.

“That really doesn't make much of a drop in the bucket in terms of the capacity of our system,” he said. “So we can handle locally — I'm talking in Thunder Bay — we can handle more. It's really whether the provincial contracts are out there to facilitate it.”