Solar industry seeks to salvage rebate effort

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 12, 2014 at 5:49 pm •  Published: May 12, 2014

MAPLEWOOD, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's solar energy industry rallied Monday to resurrect a popular rebate program created by a 2008 renewable-energy ballot initiative that was curtailed when the state's largest utilities said they had to cease participation to avoid rate increases capped by the voter-approved law.

The Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association said its members will have to lay off thousands of workers if state lawmakers or the Missouri Public Service Commission don't fix an incentive program that provided up to $50,000 in rebates to customers who installed solar rooftop panels. Lawmakers are now in their final week of the annual legislative session.

Association officials made the plea during a news conference with solar company owners at Schlafly Bottleworks, a Maplewood brewery that installed a solar roof several years ago to take advantage of the $2-a-watt rebate program.

"In the midst of a recession, solar was one of the best and most exciting economic drivers in the state," association president Rick Hunter said. "Now these jobs and growth are on the brink of being lost."

After the passage of Proposition C six years ago, industry leaders, Kansas City Power and Light, and Ameren Missouri had hoped the rebate program would last until at least 2015. But by October 2013, Ameren had asked the state Public Service Commission for an early halt because the program was more popular than expected and it couldn't afford to pass along the rebates without a sizeable rate increase.

The law requires investor-owned utilities to derive 5 percent of their electric generation from renewable resources this year — a commitment set to increase to 15 percent by 2021. However, rate increases derived from that measure must be capped at 1 percent.

Ameren vice president Warren Wood said the utility committed to nearly $92 million in solar rebates while paying out almost half of that amount.

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