Florida Is About to Vote On Who Controls Its Solar Power | Motherboard
The Sunshine State seems like the perfect place for solar power. But a state amendment could restrict residents’ access to solar power if passed this November.
The first amendment on the state ballot would establish a consumers’ rights to own or lease solar panels on their property to generate electricity for their own use. This sounds like a good thing on the surface, but green energy advocates have largely opposed this amendment. They say some of the language actually restricts consumers’ ability to use solar panels, and allows power companies to charge solar customers fees to subsidize the rest of the power grid for non-solar users.
The ballot amendment comes as states are grappling with how to regulate solar energy. Some states, like California, are pushing for large-scale integration of solar electricity as a way to fight climate change. Others are worried about what solar power means for their traditional fossil fuel-driven electricity industries.
Pro-amendment groups in Florida argue the change would guarantee consumers’ right to own solar panels—though it’s already protected via state statute—by putting it into the state constitution. It’s worth noting that the pro-amendment group, Consumers for Smart Solar, is largely funded by utility companies with major consumer bases in Florida, such as Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light Company and others, the Energy and Policy Institute revealed last fall. Their campaign, “Yes on 1 For the Sun,” is also backed by groups with financial interests in the power sector, such as Gulf Power, ExxonMobile and the Koch brothers.
Meanwhile, opponents say the language of the amendment would prohibit consumers from using third-party solar panels, which make up a majority of the market nationwide. That, they argue, would allow utility companies to control all leasing of solar panels in the state. Opponents worry this could allow utility companies to charge fees on solar power and could refuse to buy back power from solar customers who produce more electricity than they use—which goes against current law. This could also slow down growth in the solar sector.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente warned the amendment was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” in a court dissent following a ruling related to the amendment.
“Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.”