Photo: Tampa Bay TimesSolar panels dot the rooftops of homes in Groveland, Fla.
About Florida's Amendment 1: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
Amendment 1 (Nov. 8 ballot)
Source: Citizen Initiative
Synopsis: Amendment 1 is the utility-backed response to a third solar initiative that failed to make the 2016 ballot but would have allowed Floridians to buy power directly from third-party solar providers. The full ballot title for Amendment 1 is “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice.” It essentially would enshrine in the state Constitution existing laws on solar energy, which opponents say have blocked solar growth in favor of existing utility companies like Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light by helping ensure their monopoly on the sale of power to Floridians. Supporters counter that the amendment is needed to ensure state and local governments can pass regulations that protect solar-power consumers as well as utility customers. A central issue is Florida’s current ban on the third-party sale of electricity. In most other states companies are allowed to install solar panels on homes or businesses and then sell the power directly to the consumer, bypassing utilities altogether. Florida is one of only a handful of states that prohibit consumers from buying power directly from third-party solar providers. A divided Florida Supreme Court approved the ballot’s wording in a 4-3 vote on March 31, 2016. You can read the justices’ majority and dissenting opinions here. If passed, Amendment 1 would take effect immediately.
A YES vote on Amendment 1 would:
- Put existing statutory language into the state constitution, making it difficult to change future solar energy policy in statute due to a possible conflict with the constitutional language adopted.
- Establish a constitutional rather than statutory right for consumers to own or lease solar-power equipment on their property to generate electricity for their own use, leaving out the ability for third-party providers to install solar equipment on their homes or businesses and then sell that power directly back to the consumers, bypassing the major utilities.
- Create an assumption that those who use solar power are being subsidized by non-solar utility customers for the cost of providing backup power and electric grid access and not paying enough for the upkeep of the transmission and distribution system. It then creates a constitutional mandate that state and local governments regulate solar power generators and users to correct the subsidy, potentially leading to increased costs to solar users.
- Not explicitly prevent Florida consumers from entering into contracts with a third-party solar provider, but possibly erecting barriers through its definitions and mandate for regulation.
A NO vote on Amendment 1 would:
- Leave in Florida statutes the right for consumers to own or lease solar-power equipment on their property to generate electricity for their own use.
- Leave open the possibility that homeowners and businesses could buy or lease solar-power equipment.
- Halt a potential constitutional barrier to new laws that would broaden the solar-power market by allowing solar companies to sell electricity directly to consumers.
- Protect existing rules that allow net metering, where utilities credit a retail rate to customers generating excess solar power that is returned to the electric grid.
Supporters: Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light Co.; Gulf Power Co.; Tampa Electric Co.; 60 Plus Association.
Opponents: Floridians for Solar Choice; EarthJustice; Florida Solar Energy Industries Association; Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; League of Women Voters of Florida.
This article is from the Florida League of Women Voters, and originally appeared here.