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Report: Solar Jobs Shine Brightly in MO For Now

PHOTO: The solar industry added 1,800 jobs in Missouri in 2013, but there are concerns that future growth won't be as bright if the state's utilities can't come up with a way to continue the highly popular rebate program. Photo credit: morguefile.com
PHOTO: The solar industry added 1,800 jobs in Missouri in 2013, but there are concerns that future growth won't be as bright if the state's utilities can't come up with a way to continue the highly popular rebate program. Photo credit: morguefile.com
February 24, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Solar energy equipment manufacturers, installers and suppliers added 1600 jobs in Missouri in 2013, one of the highest growth rates in the nation, according to a new report from The Solar Foundation, but there are concerns that growth won't continue. According to executive director P.J. Wilson of Renew Missouri, it's no surprise the state now ranks 12th in the country for the number of solar jobs, up from 20th just two years ago.

"Back in 2007 there were, I believe, four solar installers in the whole state of Missouri, and today there's around 45 solar installers," he said. "We've gone from literally half a dozen jobs in the state and today there's around 2800 jobs."

Wilson said the rapid growth is due in large part to a 2008 ballot initiative which required the state's utility companies to offer rebates to customers who installed solar panels. The highly successful rebate program was recently suspended after the utilities said they had run out of money.

Wilson warned that the solar industry's growth rate might be at risk if the utility companies can't find a way to continue the rebate program, which he said became a victim of its own success.

"All those jobs that were created were created with the help of that policy requiring the utilities to offer solar rebates. Now the solar rebates are still being paid out, but they're not accepting new applications right now. "

Wilson added that Renew Missouri and other renewable-energy organizations are currently working with the utilities and the Legislature to find a way to keep the solar industry's momentum going.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO