Florida might be the Sunshine State, but thus far it hasn’t been as easy for homeowners in the state to go solar as it is in other states. That may change this year. As of today (July 15), there are now two measures attempting to make it to the 2016 ballot that would make it easier to go solar in the state—but they’re not friendly with each other.
The new ballot initiative, the Smart Solar Amendment, was proposed by the newly formed Consumers for Smart Solar, an advocacy group formed by business, civic and faith leaders, among them former Florida state legislators, Reps. Dick Batchelor (D) and Jim Kallinger (R). The new initiative would allow Florida’s consumers to own or lease solar equipment on their properties and use the generated energy for their own use without impacting the electric rates of others.
The supporters have labeled the previous proposal the Shady Solar Amendment and argue that the proposal set forth earlier this year by Floridians for Solar Choice would benefit out-of-state solar companies (think SolarCity and Vivint Solar) and force others to help subsidize rooftop solar on others’ homes and businesses. They also argue the previous initiative doesn’t offer adequate protections for consumers.
“The Shady Solar Amendment grants truly grotesque, constitutionally-embedded regulatory exemptions to solar energy companies,” said former Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter. “It allows them to act as public utilities without any of the rules of the road that protect consumers from fraud, overbilling or abusive business practices. It’s dangerous for consumers, whether they choose solar or not.”
“Solar energy is essential to Florida’s future,” Batchelor said. “Yet, Floridians should not have to sacrifice consumer protections to gain greater access to solar energy. That’s where our amendment comes in. The Smart Solar Amendment establishes the constitutional right of every Floridian to generate solar energy; it permits state and local authorities to establish proper consumer protection rules; and it allows policymakers to make certain traditional energy consumers are not forced to subsidize out-of-state solar companies.”
Under the new proposal Floridians and regulators would have more control. The earlier ballot invite would cede more control to solar leasing companies, supporters of the new proposal argue.
“On both sides of the aisle, there is broad agreement that solar will be an essential part of Florida’s energy future,” said Kallinger. “That’s why we asked Floridians for Solar Choice to consider changes to its ballot language that would protect consumers, not just big, out-of-state solar companies. We’re here today because they refused.”
“While the Shady Solar Amendment will force Florida’s families to subsidize solar, the Smart Solar Amendment will ensure that consumers are not left holding the bag. Our bag is already full,” said Billie Tucker, Chair and CEO of the Grassroots Victory Tour and co-founder of one of the nation’s largest Tea Party groups. Tucker’s input is interesting because the Floridians for Solar Choice Group said it also is Tea Party supported.
“I rarely agree with Tea Party leaders,” said Screven Watson, former Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party. “However, the special privileges granted to the Shady Solar Amendment are so obscene that I’m not surprised to see such a broad coalition opposed to it. I’m a strong believer in solar energy and I’m proud to support the Smart Solar Amendment, a sensible, consumer-friendly alternative.”
Either way both proposals will likely help reduce the bottleneck on residential and business solar in the state. In the past the sector has been hamstrung by smaller program allowing people to install solar, like FPL’s residential solar program.Tweet