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Report: Uncertainty Clouds Michigan's Solar Industry

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PHOTO: Despite progress toward its renewable energy goals, Michigan's solar industry took a hit last year with employment dropping from 2,700 in 2013 to 2,100 in 2014. Photo credit: Ben Grader/Morguefile.
PHOTO: Despite progress toward its renewable energy goals, Michigan's solar industry took a hit last year with employment dropping from 2,700 in 2013 to 2,100 in 2014. Photo credit: Ben Grader/Morguefile.
March 3, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan's solar industry has seen sunnier days, as new rankings show the state has dropped from 14th to 20th in the nation for solar employment. Experts say a lack of clear direction is partly to blame.

The good news is Michigan is on track to have 10 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by the end of this year, meeting a voter-approved mandate set in 2008.

Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, says as that standard "caps out" with no new goals on the horizon, the state's once-burgeoning solar industry is taking a hit.

"With some solar incentive programs winding down and no plan to replace them anytime soon, the state may see some additional solar employment losses in the coming year," she says.

According to The Solar Foundation's report, Michigan lost 600 solar jobs in 2014. State lawmakers established a workgroup to look at the energy issue last May, but so far have not put forward a plan to replace the renewable energy portfolio standard.

The Solar Foundation's report lists nearly 200 solar companies in the state. Luecke points to Michigan's long manufacturing history and says the industry has strong job creation potential under the right conditions.

"These are local jobs, inherently domestic jobs," she says. "You can't outsource these jobs to other countries because they're happening right here. The installations are happening right here on American soil."

According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, the state's renewable energy sector has attracted nearly $3 billion in private sector investment.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI