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Report: Solar Jobs Decline In MO

PHOTO: The number of solar industry jobs in Missouri dropped from 2,800 in 2013 to 2,500 in 2014, according to a new analysis from The Solar Foundation. Photo credit: pedrojperez/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: The number of solar industry jobs in Missouri dropped from 2,800 in 2013 to 2,500 in 2014, according to a new analysis from The Solar Foundation. Photo credit: pedrojperez/morguefile.com.
March 2, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Policy squabbles and a fight over rebates may have clouded Missouri's once blossoming solar industry, according to new data that shows the state lost 300 solar jobs last year.

The latest analysis now ranks the state 16th in the nation for solar industry employment, down from 12th in 2013.

Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, which issued the report, says despite the job losses, there is evidence pointing to a growing demand for solar power in the state.

"Missouri has seen rapid installation growth in the last two years, jumping from a few megawatts in 2012, to 28 megawatts in 2013, to nearly 90 megawatts in 2014," she points out.

In late 2013, Missouri's two biggest investor-owned utilities announced they could no longer pay rebates for solar installations.

However, last month, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that a third utility, which serves Joplin, Missouri and areas in four neighboring states, must comply with the solar energy requirements of a 2008 voter-approved mandate. It requires utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021, with 2 percent coming from solar energy.

The solar industry saw steady job growth for several years in Missouri, and Luecke says if the state is able to overcome some of the current policy obstacles, she believes the momentum will return.

"It's a highly labor-intensive energy form,” she points out. “And the solar industry is creating jobs at a very fast pace – nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy.”

Analysts say some bills working their way through the state legislature could give Missouri's solar industry a lift.

They include a measure in the Senate that would open up net metering to a wider range of commercial entities, and another in the House that would allow solar customers to bank credit for excess generation for a full year rather than a month.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO