I sent in my ballot a few days ago. Before receiving it, I was aware that Amendment 1, regarding solar energy, was supposed to get a “No” vote — thanks to CleanTechnica‘s coverage of the topic! However, once I got the ballot and looked at the summary of the amendment, my hope that it would get rejected fell through the floor.
By and large, the voting public supports solar energy and policies that promote it. In various surveys we’ve covered over the years, the support falls in the 80–90% range. Despite being legislation that would implement more roadblocks for rooftop solar, the wording in most of the Amendment 1 summary makes it look like a pro-solar, pro-renewables amendment. Have a look:
Not cool, eh?
The key segment, of course, is actually in regard to this line: “to ensure that customers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.“
Yep, if you don’t follow the solar industry closely, you’ll probably read that and think it’s a reasonable line and warrants a “Yes” vote. Unfortunately, it’s a misleading line that was specifically created in order to push through an amendment Florida’s monopolistic utility industry got on the Florida ballot.
Studies have found that the grid, ratepayer, and overall societal benefits of rooftop solar energy offset most if not all additional grid costs associated with the topics in the quote above. In other words, focusing only on the costs warps the picture, since rooftop solar also brings huge financial benefits.
It’s like promising that other consumers won’t have to pay the additional $10 in costs rooftop solar comes with … but totally ignoring $12 in savings that ratepayers would have gained if the state had helped stimulate more rooftop solar power.
Effectively, Florida utilities and the Koch Brothers (via front groups) are trying to open the door for rooftop solar fees/taxes and setting up a fight against net metering, which is an essential and fair tool for stimulating more rooftop solar power in the Sunshine State. And forget about solar subsidies, which the vast majority of the population actually supports, if this amendment goes through.
It’s ironic, it’s sad, and it’s evil if you really think about it. Putting selfish, greedy profit motives ahead of public well-being, these utility companies are hurting the people they are supposed to be helping. In fact, the greater use of dirty energy that will result from a stifled rooftop solar industry will result in more premature deaths and more suffering for the people of Florida.
The amendment is also worded to “prevent homeowners or businesses from contracting with solar companies that can install solar for no upfront cost.”
We shouldn’t be picking winners and losers, as some politicians like to say, yet Amendment 1 on the November 8 ballot is specifically about making utilities the “winners” and Floridians the “losers.”
As Rolling Stone nicely summarizes, net metering makes homeowners business competitors with utilities, which is why they are pushing so hard to maintain their monopoly on the market: “The rise of distributed solar power poses a triple threat to these monopoly gains. First: When homeowners install their own solar panels, it means the utilities build fewer power plants, and investors miss out on a chance to profit. Second: Solar homes buy less electricity from the grid; utilities lose out on recurring profits from power sales. Third: Under ‘net metering’ laws, most utilities have to pay rooftop solar producers for the excess power they feed onto the grid. In short, rooftop solar transforms a utility’s traditional consumers into business rivals.”
A former Republican member of the state legislature and the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC), Nancy Argenziano, Argenziano, summarizes: “The legislature is owned by the utilities. To me, it’s extremely corrupt. The legislature takes millions from utilities, who make billions from [the decisions of] the PSC. They get what they pay for.”
Note that anti-solar Amendment 1 follows other significant anti-cleantech moves by Republican Governor Rick Scott: “The state Public Service Commission–stacked with appointees hand-picked by Republican Governor Rick Scott for their current terms–have gutted Florida’s energy efficiency goals and ended a solar power rebate program for homeowners.” Can you guess who Rick Scott is actually working for?
If you are voting in Florida, be sure to vote “No” on Amendment 1 if you want to support solar power that creates a net benefit for society (you), and please spread the word (whether you are a Floridian or not) so that there’s a better chance Florida rooftops are more quickly part of the clean energy revolution.