If you think the fight over the utility-backed Amendment 1 in Florida only affects the future of solar power in one Southeastern state, then you need to think again.
If the anti-solar initiative passes on the Florida ballot in November, utilities will surely use it as a model to attack incentives that help homeowners get solar in other states.
And that could slow down the spread of solar across America, even in states where it’s been growing the fastest like California, Arizona or New York.
Utilities Darken the Sunshine State
Americans think it’s only natural that the Sunshine State, should be one of the top places in the US, if not the #1 state, for solar power.
That’s why any normal person is shocked to learn that Florida is in fact not #1 for amount of solar power installed, but instead, it’s #14, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association:
Florida, “the sunshine state,” ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, but all the way down at 14th for cumulative solar capacity installed. Florida’s solar policies lag behind many other states in the nation: it has no renewable portfolio standard and does not allow power purchase agreements, two policies that have driven investments in solar in other states.
People in the industry know that it’s not sunshine, but terrible laws, that put Florida behind such non-sunny states as New Jersey (#4), Massachusetts (#6) and New York (#7) for the amount of solar panels installed in the state as of December 2015.
A Classic Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Now, a deceptive amendment on the Florida ballot this November could make things even worse for solar power in the Sunshine State. In public, the measure is being pushed by a group called Consumers for Smart Solar. But that’s just a front group for utilities including Florida Power and Light as well as the infamously anti-solar Koch Brothers.
As WLRN public TV and radio in Miami explains, supporters are presenting the measure as pro-solar, when it’s actually anti-solar:
Amendment 1 would put the right to use solar power in the state constitution. But it also would protect non-solar customers from subsidizing solar users. Consumers for Smart Solar spokesman Screven Watson told WJCT last week the amendment is all about consumer protection.
But that “protection” could allow utilities to undo current solar tax breaks, including one voters overwhelmingly passed in August. And it could dismantle solar-friendly policies like net metering, or utilities’ buying back extra power from solar users.
Watch Saturday Night Live veteran Cecily Strong explain the fight to open up Florida to solar:
Amendment 1 A Threat to Solar Beyond Florida
The small solar industry in Florida has been fighting gallantly to educate voters about the dangers of Amendment 1. They’ve even recruited an unlikely collection of allies including both environmental groups and the Tea Party to stand up for citizens’ right to make their own power.
However, the big electric utilities who are backing the initiative have poured millions of dollars into a campaign to deceive voters that Amendment 1 is really pro-solar. And it’s working.
Unfortunately, polls show that Florida voters actually favor this terrible initiative. Support for the measure is actually growing, even though voters don’t understand what Amendment 1 would really do. As of late September, 84% of Florida voters support the amendment, up from 77% in June, according to a poll by St. Leo University. The bad news is that Amendment 1 will need only 60% support to pass.
This means that solar advocates in Florida need help right now.
If you’re in a state that’s good for solar, from California to Colorado to New York, you owe it to your colleagues in Florida to help them out. Even more, you owe it to your own business to make sure that deceptive attacks on solar don’t spread from Florida to your state in the future.
You know that utilities have been trying to push back solar in every state, using a variety of sneaky tricks. Now, they are just waiting to see how their latest scheme goes in Florida. If utilities win this one, they’re going to be looking at other states where they can try the same thing — to try to stop solar under the guise of helping solar.
Please spread the truth about the bogus Amendment 1 to your friends and family who live in Florida or may know somebody who does. Share this story on Facebook and Twitter. Send it out by email to people you know.
Help stop the utility attack on solar in Florida before it comes to your state.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group