Well, we have more confusion in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times writes: “State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg has filed legislation that would allow those who generate electricity from solar power to sell it directly to others.”
That sounds great, right? Well, wait one moment.
“Brandes’ bill, which is similar to a ballot petition being circulated by a pro-solar coalition, also would allow utility companies to install rooftop solar panels on businesses and sell that electricity to those customers without regulators’ approval.”
The response by the organizers of the solar petition is not one of appreciation. They oppose Brandes’ bill, saying it is “an attempt by the utilities to undermine their ballot initiative. They argue that the bill could force those who use solar and want to remain connected to the grid to pay exorbitant fees that could make solar unaffordable.”
The clear aim is to let utilities continue their monopolistic, cash-sucking practices using a new technology. Whereas solar power can enable a more democratized energy system, Brandes’ bill would just have us remain in the stranglehold of utilities.
“We are opposing SB 1118 very strongly as written,” said Debbie Dooley, one of the organizers of the petition drive. “We are in communication with Sen. Brandes’ office and are hopeful he will pull this bad bill.”
In addition to the potential of other costs to solar users, Dooley said the bill would give the state Public Service Commission broad authority and control over how solar is deployed.
The article continues to explain that, “Brandes said he was unaware of concerns about the language in the bill.” Well, language is always an issue in such bills, isn’t it? It’s not the title of a bill that matters, but the technical details and what they actually enable or restrict.
Continuing, the Tampa Bay Times writes, “As an advocate for solar, Brandes said he wants to see good policy come forward, and he believes that a thorough policy discussion should take place rather than a constitutional amendment for issues as important as medical marijuana and solar power.”
Florida is among the worst states in the nation for solar power policy. It is certainly about time that the state legislature either follow in the footsteps of other states leading the way or come up with some innovative ideas for incentivizing and allowing distributed solar energy… or drop our moniker as “The Sunshine State.”
The Tampa Bay Times adds more context:
Under Florida law, only utilities can sell electricity directly to consumers. Solar proponents argue that 36 other states allow others to do it. Removing the utilities as middlemen, the argument goes, could help spur solar as a clean-energy alternative.
The petition drive now includes the likes of tea party and Christian Coalition conservatives as well as libertarians, liberal environmentalists such as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace — all of whom have locked arms in opposition to the utilities’ control over electricity.
The utilities have said that solar is not as effective in Florida because the state’s cloud cover makes solar panels inefficient.
Another pseudo argument put forward is that programs enabling homeowners to sell electricity will hurt the poor. (Note that these arguments are largely coming from utilities and fossil fuel companies.) I have seen no solid indication of this, and even if it were a legitimate issue, policies could be put in place to remedy that issue. Furthermore, let’s remember that it is disadvantaged communities that suffer the worst effects of burning coal and natural gas. Coal alone costs the US about $500 billion a year in extra health-related costs, and much of that is borne by the poor.
The Tampa Bay Times continues: “on Friday, the national board of the NAACP issued a statement backing solar and energy-efficiency efforts. The statement is in contrast to Florida NAACP leaders, who have made arguments similar to those of the utilities.”
“In ratifying this resolution, the board and membership of the NAACP have affirmed that we can transition from fossil fuel-based energy production that is rampantly causing harm by polluting communities,” said Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.
“We can improve the economic well-being of low-income neighborhoods and communities of color and provide avenues for asset development and participation as we chart a new course for how we generate energy in the United States and beyond,” Patterson said.
Honestly, a more democratized and cleaner electricity grid is going to benefit the masses, especially the disadvantaged… as long as policymakers work to make it so, rather than working as the salespeople and do-boys of utilities and fossil fuel companies.