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Green Building News

Solar Access on the Florida Ballot

Solar advocates say that a utility-backed ballot measure is designed to deceive voters into thinking they will have more solar options

In Florida, voters will face a ballot initiative underwritten by utilities that solar advocates say will restrict, rather than expand, access to solar energy.
Image Credit: DOE / NREL

Solar advocates in Florida say that they have proof that electric utilities are attempting to trick voters into supporting a ballot initiative that appears to broaden their access to solar energy but in fact will do just the opposite.

In an article earlier this month, the Miami Herald said that the policy director of a utility-supported think tank admitted at a conference that the utility effort to pass an amendment to the state constitution was “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that would undermine efforts to make solar energy more accessible to Floridians.

Florida allows state residents to own or lease solar panels, but does not permit third-party sales. As a blog at Forbes explains, the ballot question would allow residents to lease panels through a utility but does not address third-party power purchase agreements. The ballot measure, supported by a group called Consumers for Smart Solar and $21 million in utility backing, also would let utilities add new fees to the bills of solar customers to compensate for lower sales.

Sal Nuzzo, a vice president of the James Madison Institute, was taped saying utility support of the ballot measure amounted to a “little bit of political jiu-jitsu.” Consumers for Smart Solar denied it had hired the think tank, and Nuzzo’s boss later claimed Nuzzo “misspoke.”

The Forbes blog noted, “Amendment #1 was labeled as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ by Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente… She went on to say, ‘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.’”

The fight over Florida’s solar future has been messy, as this earlier report at GBA suggests. A competing group, Floridians for Solar Choice, wants to remove the ban on third-party sales and allow customers to lease their solar generation to neighbors or building tenants. But an attempt to get that measure on the ballot failed.


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