Did you vote “YES” for solar in August? Great! Now vote “NO” in November. What?
Solar is on the ballot of November 8th, too; but this proposed amendment is not at all solar-friendly. The fact that it is backed and promoted by Duke Energy, TECO, Koch, Exxon, Gulf Power and FPL should be a huge red flag, but the slick advertisements for the measure has created a lot of confusion. I’ve already heard from friends who planned to vote “yes” on 1 because they support solar. They didn’t realize how anti-solar this measure actually is. So let’s break it down.
The ballot title is “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice”, and ballot summary reads:
This amendment establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.
First of all, Floridians already have a statutory right to install solar panels on property they own. Having this “right” enshrined in our state constitution isn’t needed by consumers, but it could create major future roadblocks for solar power as technology improves. For instance, notice how the amendment says “for their own use.” This is not accidental, in my opinion. This clause effectively blocks “the ability for third-party providers to install solar equipment on their homes or businesses and then sell that power directly back to the consumers, bypassing the major utilities.” In California, more than 70% of residential solar users choose a “third-party solar provider“:
There is a benefit to not having to put down the money for a solar power system. There is a benefit to having drastically lower electricity bills immediately, even $0 electricity bills, without having to put a chunk of money in for that. Yes, if you have the money to actually buy a solar power system, DO THAT. But if you have determined that you don’t, you can start saving money today with solar leasing!
Florida is one of the very few states that already prohibits third-party solar providers. Amendment 1 would cement that prohibition into the state constitution, thus shutting out consumers who want to use solar power but can’t afford the steep up front costs of solar equipment.
This amendment also attempts to pit solar users against non-solar users by implying that solar users are being subsidized by others. The argument claims that because solar users only use the electric grid for backup power, they are not paying enough for “the upkeep of the transmission and distribution system”. The implication being that everyone else is forced to pay more to make up the difference. This is sheer nonsense, and an insult coming from a company with $1.65 billion in profits in 2015 (an 8.6% increase over 2014). What it appears the energy companies are really trying to do is open the door to eliminating net-metering and possibly charging additional fees to solar users.
If it isn’t already clear that Amendment 1’s purpose is to protect the profits and monopoly of the electric utility companies, Sal Nuzzo, Vice President of the James Madison Institute, a think tank supported by the electric utilities, even admits it. On October 18, The Miami Herald reported on the purposely deceptive tactics – complete with an audio recording admission – in their article, “Insider reveals deceptive strategy behind Florida’s solar amendment”
The policy director of a think tank supported by Florida’s largest electric utilities admitted at a conference this month what opponents have claimed for months: The industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.
Sal Nuzzo, a vice president at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, detailed the strategy used by the state’s largest utilities to create and finance Amendment 1 at the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville on Oct. 2.
Nuzzo called the amendment, which has received more than $21 million in utility industry financing, “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road,” according to an audio recording of the event supplied to the Herald/Times.
So remember Miami – vote “NO” to Amendment 1 on November 8!