While Sierra Club pushes solar energy in Oklahoma, industry jobs drop for 2nd straight year nationwide

(solar power from parking lot at OKC VA hospital)

Even though a new report indicates that the number of jobs in the nation’s solar industry dropped for a second straight year in 2018, Oklahoma’s Sierra Club is pushing approval of several solar energy bills in the legislature.

The new report, under the heading “Solar Jobs Setting Like the Sun” showed the industry lost 8,000 jobs or 3.2 percent of its workforce. The report was issued by the nonprofit Solar Foundation which also blamed the “uncertainty” of the 2017 debate on solar tariffs for delaying projects. The tariff is now at 25 percent in the second of the four-year duration and hit utility-scale projects hard.

But the Sierra Club is ignoring the report and is making a big push to get legislative approval of at least six bills related to solar energy.

While the solar energy industry is practically non-existent in Oklahoma, some legislators are hoping to see it grow. The Sierra Club, in a recent email notice said Oklahoma ranks 6th in the nation in the average peak sunlight hours but 45th in Solar Energy production.

“States across the country with far less solar radiation than Oklahoma have vibrant and lucrative solar markets. Oklahoma’s potential is great but we lag behind other states,” stated the environmental group.

The Oklahoma Sierra Club believes Oklahoma should do more.

“We could be a national leader in solar energy, as we are in wind power. Unfortunately, regulatory barriers and the lack of clear legislative support have hindered the growth of the solar industry in Oklahoma.”

The group cited several things it felt were barriers to expansion of the solar industry in the state.

* Uncertainty as to allowable third-party financing alternatives
These leasing arrangements are the most attractive option available to residential consumers looking to invest in solar power.

* Unfair compensation and net metering programs for small scale energy producers
Under Oklahoma’s policy, if the customer produces more electricity than they use in a given month, the excess is donated back to the utility, with no compensation to the customer.

* Technical requirements for interconnections that vary from place to place
Each utility can set their own standards now. We need to standardize the technical requirements for solar energy installations.

Bills have been introduced at the Legislature this year to deal with these issues. HB 2184, SB 525, SB 526, SB 529, SB 530 and SB 952 all address various aspects of these barriers.

These bills are currently pending in the Senate Energy Committee and the House Utilities Committee.


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