On November 8, Florida voters will determine the future of solar energy in the Sunshine State by voting on Amendment 1, which seeks to establish a utility-owned monopoly on solar energy in the state. This is an anti-solar initiative.
Amendment 1, titled “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” uses deceptive language to disguise itself as a pro-solar amendment. Although the bill promises to “give residents of Florida the right to own or lease solar energy equipment for personal use,” it may actually take all of the private-sector financial benefits of solar energy away from consumers and give them to the utilities.
The Energy Information Administration projects the U.S. solar capacity to grow from 10 gigawatts in 2014 to 27 gigawatts in 2017, an average annual growth rate of 39%. This significant projected growth in solar is largely due to favorable solar energy policies like net-metering and third-party ownership, two policies that the utilities behind Amendment 1 seek to eradicate. These policies are critical for the transition of our nation’s energy portfolio from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
- Net-metering allows consumers who generate their own electricity to receive credits for their net generation. These credits can be used at any time, rather than only when that electricity is generated, and offset solar customers’ electricity purchases. Although net-metering is critical to the growth of private-sector investment in solar, utilities oppose the policy because it both increases the supply of energy to the grid and decreases the demand on utility-produced energy, weakening their monopoly on power markets.
- Third-party ownership allows residential and commercial customers to go solar with little to no upfront cost, allowing these consumers to generate their own power and save money on energy. Third-party ownership makes it practical for non-utility entities to own a solar system and allows consumers to realize cash benefits through a lease or power purchase agreement. In a lease, customers simply lease a solar system with no upfront costs and enjoy savings on their electric bill. In a power purchase agreement, customers buy solar energy directly and hedge energy prices at locked-in rates that are typically lower than what the utilities can offer them.
Florida is already far behind other states when it comes to offering renewable energy incentives; Amendment 1 would cement the unsatisfactory status quo into the state constitution, making it nearly impossible to draft and implement smart solar policy in the future. Amendment 1 claims that it would give consumers the right to lease solar energy equipment, but Floridians already have the right to do so. Amendment 1 is promising people rights that they already have in order to lock in the pro-utility status quo for years to come. It would prevent the state’s solar energy markets from evolving and maturing to the degree that they have in states with pro-solar legislation.
Utilities are banking on the uninformed masses to blindly vote yes on Amendment 1, and Floridians simply cannot let that happen. On election day, make sure to VOTE NO on Amendment 1 and spread the word to family, friends, co-workers, and others who will be voting in the election. Let’s pave the way for solar energy in the Sunshine State.