According to a solar jobs census conducted under the auspices of The Solar Foundation, Colorado ranked ninth in the U.S. for solar jobs, with 3,600 people employed by the industry here during 2013. See an infographic about the findings below.
A cause to celebrate? Not according to Margaret McCall, an energy associate with Environment Colorado. That's because the state actually is lower on the roster than it was last year due to hiring stagnation.
"In Colorado, we have the fifth greatest solar potential in the country because of all our sunshine," McCall says. "But we saw a 0 percent increase in employment between 2012 and 2013. And that's pretty disappointing."
This holding action wasn't mirrored elsewhere, McCall adds. "Other states are bounding forward in terms of solar. Employment in the industry nationwide grew by almost 20 percent last year. But not here."
The result was slippage in the solar-jobs rankings. As noted by the Denver Business Journal, Colorado fell three slots from 2012 in terms of both total jobs and solar jobs per capita; the state went from 7th to 10th in this last category between 2012 and 2013.
In the view of solar boosters, the situation would have been worsened had a GOP attempt to repeal the rural renewable energy standard been successful; it was defeated last month.
But McCall is still concerned about possible changes in net metering, which she describes as "fair credit for homeowners who have solar for sending excess energy back to the grid." As reported by Green Tech Media, Xcel Energy has asked for changes in the net metering standard that advocates believe would cost solar users currently benefiting from it. And while the Public Utilities Commission has not yet approved the plan, the proposal itself concerns McCall.
"Our hypothesis is that uncertainty in the future of these policies is contributing to the slowdown," she says.
How can Colorado reverse the current trend and begin climbing the solar-jobs list again? "We need to get a firm commitment from leaders with pro-solar policies to turn this around," McCall believes. "And it won't happen on its own."
Here's an infographic featuring the top ten solar states of 2013.
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More from our Environment archive circa September 2013: "Photos: The 100 dirtiest power plants in America -- including two in Colorado."