Nov. 8th, utility companies will try to pull the wool over voter’s eyes.
In what has proven to be possibly the craziest election season ever, Florida voters will see a proposed amendment to their state constitution near the bottom of an already confusing ballot. The summary of the proposed amendment which will appear on the ballot will read:
This amendment establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers 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.
Scanning over it quickly in the voting booth, most voters might say… “YES! I want to support the right to own solar!” But wait– let’s take a closer look. It starts by making in a constitutional right to own solar. That sounds like a really strong pro-solar stance, right? But think about it…is there any danger of individuals losing their “right” to buy solar? No. Owning solar is not against the law, never has been, and no one has proposed making solar ownership illegal.
The summary continues “…State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare…” Also fine. Everyone agrees that government should protect health safety and welfare. Except, of course, libertarians and anarchists, and they probably aren’t voting anyway.
It’s the last section where the true intention of the amendment is hidden. “…to ensure that consumers 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.” This statement is designed to sound innocuous to liberals and act as a dog whistle for conservatives by stating clearly “no subsidies.”
What they are talking about is net metering, the single most effective incentive ever created for independently owned grid-tied solar. If you are a regular reader of Solar Tribune, you already know what net metering is. If not, do a little reading over at Wikipedia. In short, utility companies are required to allow the solar owner to push their unused excess solar Kilowatt-hours out onto the grid, where it benefits all of their neighbors as well as the utility company during sunny peak usage hours when it is needed most. In exchange for this service, the utility gives them credit for those kilowatt-hours to be used later, when the sun isn’t shining. Despite utility company grumblings, net metering has been a mutually beneficial system for decades.
Now, thanks to all of those forward-thinking consumers who invested their own money to raise demand and lower prices of solar, utilities now see the potential for profit in owning their own solar and they want to purge their government-sanctioned-monopoly service territories of any upstart competition. They are willing to use the power of the all-mighty dollar, along with armies of expensive lobbyists and lawyers to crush net metering and corner the solar market.
“Amendment 1 is a sham designed by the utilities to turn out the lights on solar in Florida,” said Pamela Goodman, the president of the Florida League of Women Voters. “Florida utilities have raised a staggering $21 million to place this ‘citizen’ amendment on the ballot. With Amendment 4 we saw the enthusiasm Florida voters have for good solar policy, and we urge voters to get the facts and not be fooled by this utility-funded attempt to put their boot on the neck of solar.”
In August, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which protects property owners who install solar panels from tax increases. In Florida, this effort is lead by a utility front group with the Orwellian name “Consumers for Smart Solar.”
The Amendment is so egregiously deceptive that The Clear Language Institute – a non-profit organization whose mission is to foster legislation that’s written using honest, easy-to-understand language – announced it has given their first “Deceptive Language Award” to the Consumers for Smart Solar PAC, the sponsors of Florida’s Amendment #1. The recipient of the award is a political organization consisting primarily of four utility companies: Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power Co.
“Consumers for Smart Solar PAC is the hands-down winner of this award,” said Pete Tannen, Chairman of the Institute, speaking at the organization’s annual luncheon. “Amendment #1 uses deceptive language to purposely mislead voters. The self-interest of the four utility companies behind this PAC is apparent, and the Florida legislators and the Florida Supreme Court should be called to task for allowing this dishonest legislation to appear on the ballot.