Upon initial impression, Florida’s Amendment 1— "Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice"— seems very progressive. It allows "consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use", will ensure protection of their "consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare". It even protects those who choose to forgo solar, "not [requiring them] to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do [install solar]". It even promises to leave the state and local finances unscathed.
However, grassroots group Floridians for Solar Choice isn’t quick to welcome the policy with open arms. A mere paragraph in the policy, they argue, hides a measure that is “funded by Florida’s big utilities to protect their monopoly markets and limit customer-owned solar.”
In fact, a Miami Herald report found that utility giants have spent nearly $20 million to bolster the amendment. Too, a leaked audio recording of Sal Nuzzo, vice president of the James Madison Institute (JMI) think tank, further emphasizes the shadowy aspects of the amendment. In the recording, he commends JMI client Consumers for Smart Solar and other amendment backers for their "incredibly savvy maneuver", saying the passage of the amendment would "completely [negate] anything they [pro-solar interests] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road”.
“Floridians already have the right to purchase or lease solar equipment and are already fully protected under Florida’s existing consumer protection laws,” Floridians for Solar Choice points out. “The false promises of additional rights are designed to gain support for the amendment, not to grow the solar market in Florida.”
Furthermore, many scrutinous readers take issue with the vague use of the buzzword "subsidy". With no projected change in state or municipal funds, the amendment insinuates that non-solar users will foot part of the solar customers’ bills, a frequent threat perpetuated by utility industries. Yet studies show that rooftop solar customers reel in net benefits to both the grid and utilities.
This kind of vilification could ultimately lead to the "punishment" of solar users through fees and taxation. Advocacy group Vote Solar considers the muddled legislation "a wolf in sheep’s clothing", and an attempt to "dismantle" Florida’s net metering.
“Floridians are being presented with a poisoned apple in the form of a confusing and misleading anti-solar amendment,” interim president of the Solar Energy Industries Association Tom Kimbis commented in a recent press release, “Amendment 1 restricts the freedom of Floridians to go solar and leaves them at the mercy of monopoly utilities."
With a week until election day, we will soon discover if the utility-favoring amendment will pass.
Image from Hillsborough Title