Ballot initiatives would allow the sale of solar power by state residents
Florida residents may soon be able to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel energy and earn extra income by producing solar energy if two initiatives to amend current law go to voters on the November 2016 ballot.
The “Solar Choice Amendment” and the “Smart Solar Amendment” both seek to expand the use of solar energy in Florida. State law currently states that only utilities can sell electricity to consumers.
Both ballot proposals will need 683,149 valid signatures by Feb. 1 before they can be put on the ballot. Floridians for Solar Choice already have collected more than 100,000 signatures for its initiative.
“If the amendment passes, rent payers won’t be held hostage by the electric utilities,” said Debbie Dooley, president of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, a nonprofit social welfare organization that supports the “Solar Choice Amendment.”
“If they want to buy from a neighbor up to 2 megawatts per day they would be allowed to do that,” said Dooley, also the founder of the Green Tea Coalition.
The Libertarian Party of Florida, the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy and the Republican Liberty Caucus also support the ballot initiative.
The amendment, however, is facing opposition from the National League of Cities and the Florida Municipal Electric Association, according to reports in the Miami Herald. The organizations cite loss of local revenue and the impact on city government.
Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi recently requested the state Supreme Court to decide whether the Solar Choice Amendment violates the single subject rule, has a misleading summary and removes a class of utilities from public service commission regulation.
The court is expected to make a ruling on Sept. 1.
Consumers for Smart Solar announced the “Smart Solar Amendment” proposal on July 15, arguing that state and local governments need to be involved to prevent fraud, abuse and overbilling.
As of December 2014, 3,241 customers owned renewable generation connections, said Kathleen Campanella, a spokesperson for Florida Power and Light. That represents a 26 percent increase since December 2013, when the number was 2,565.
Allan Miller, a solar panel homeowner for eight years, has been pleased with the investment in his grid-tie solar system, a system that doesn’t use batteries, but uses the grid instead.
“What we make during the day when we aren’t at home, we sell out to Florida Power and Light,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, we buy it back but the difference between the two is what we wind up paying in our monthly electric bill.”
Miller supports the Solar Choice Amendment.
An average residential solar system costs between $15,000 to $25,000 after rebates and incentives, according to Solar-Florida.org. If the roof is made out of a difficult or unique material, consumers are looking at a 10 to 25 percent increase on cost of the installation of solar panels.
In Florida, there’s no financial assistance for installing solar panels on your roof, according to Solar-Florida.org. Solar energy users can only take a federal tax credit.