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Floridians are getting scammed by their utility companies. Is your state next?

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Published on 10/26/2016 in
Updated 10/26/2016

October 26th, 2016

In just two short weeks, Floridians will decide whether to pass Amendment 1, also called the “Florida Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use Initiative.” Solar energy subsidies in the Sunshine State sure do sound nice, but Amendment 1 is the opposite of what it might seem.

Instead, it’s a utility-backed initiative that seeks to add constitutional language to prevent Floridians from having all the solar choices available, and allow utility companies to raise fees on solar owners under the guise of making them pay their fair share. And industry insiders are proud of that deception.

Amendment 1 won’t expand the solar choices available to Floridians, but will instead hurt solar owners and the industry for years to come. That’s a bold claim, so we’ll use strong facts to back it up.

But first, this is important: If you live in Florida and you want to see the benefits of rooftop solar power, vote NO on Amendment 1. If you don’t live in Florida, but you know people who do, please send a link to this article to them.

The history in 151 words

Last year, a group called Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC) sought to get an amendment on the ballot to reverse the state’s prohibition on Solar PPAs, which are a way homeowners can get solar panels on their roof from and pay for just the electricity they produce.

Sensing that the people were clamoring for new choices and the monopoly gravy train might soon be ending its run, the utility companies started and funded a group called “Consumers for Smart Solar” (CSS), which came up with Amendment 1.

To nobody’s surprise, CSS had better funding and quickly got the signatures needed to get on the ballot. FSC had troubles convincing people they were gathering signatures for a different solar amendment, and also had related troubles.

In the end, FSC failed and CSS prevailed, and the Amendment up for vote this election has people confused about exactly what it will do.

What the bill does

Let’s take a look at unfortunately named political disasters of the recent past, and add in this one to see how it stacks up:

What it’s calledWhat its title impliesWhat it actually does
“The USA PATRIOT Act”Fighting for freedom, truth, justice, and the American wayWarrantless wiretapping and data collection, indefinite detention of non-combatant “enemies,” unfettered access to formerly private records all in the name of keeping us “safe”
“Citizens United”A group of people banding together to fight for the common goodA group of corporations banding together to remove limits on campaign spending and the disclosure thereof, thus enabling billions of dollars to be spent on buying political influence and attacking opponents
“Florida Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use Initiative”Making sure Floridians can use solar to power their homes and get access to subsidies to aid the switch to renewable energyEnsures that the monopoly utility companies will be the only ones selling electricity in Florida, blocks future attempts to allow homeowners to sign PPA agreements, opens the door for utilities to end net metering and assess solar owners with new fees

And here’s the thing. This bill doesn’t do anything that isn’t already in Florida law. It just makes it harder to prevent the kinds of scummy tactics that lead to destruction of the solar industry in places like Nevada.

It’s already against the law to sign a PPA in Florida. It’s already legal for Floridians to get leases or buy solar. The only thing this bill does is make it more difficult to ever get PPAs in Florida, and more easy for utility companies to raise fees on solar owners and call it “in the public interest.” Don’t let ’em do it.

Who’s backing this bill?

So far, $22 million as been raised to promote Amendment 1. Of that $22 million, $17 million was contributed by just 4 utility companies; FPL, Gulf Power, Duke Energy, and Tampa electric.

A Washington D.C.-based consumer watchdog group called Energy and Policy put together this great graphic to show where the money has come from:

Is your state next?

This is the big question, and the answer is: YES. Amendment 1 is a new volley in a battle between the legacy, monopoly utility companies and the solar industry. Rooftop solar threatens ancient business model of a government sanctioned monopoly, and that’s bringing out the big guns, in state legislatures and public utilities commissions from Maine to Arizona, and everywhere in between.

Good solar states lie Massachusetts, New York, and California might not see these kinds of underhanded tactics, but even in those places, the utility industry is doing everything the can to make sure they’re the ones who’ll be selling you power for the next 50 years. If they install and own all the renewable generation, they’ll have no problem doing just that, and with ever-increasing margins, too.

The way to stop them is to say NO to tactics like Amendment 1, and fight back against fee increases and reductions in payments for solar. Read more about solar policy in your state by clicking on the map on our home page.

Last modified: October 26, 2016

One thought on “Floridians are getting scammed by their utility companies. Is your state next?

  1. Avatar for David Penney David Penney says:

    I just voted no on Amendment 1. I would love to convert to Solar Power but the Florida laws are so unfriendly to home solar that I can’t see a reasonable return on investment.

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