PACE has followed with great interest a number of solar issues on the state level, especially as they develop in southeastern states. Recently, we were active in Louisiana as lawmakers there rolled back aggressive subsidies for solar power that were weighing down the state budget.
That’s why news from Florida has caught our attention. Last week, an organization called Consumers for Smart Solar held a press conference in Orlando, Florida, to announce a campaign to place a consumer-friendly solar energy amendment on Florida’s 2016 November ballot. The bi-partisan group, chaired by former State Representatives Jim Kallinger and Dick Batchelor, says its amendment will protect consumers while establishing a stable platform for solar energy to grow sustainably in Florida.
The “Smart Solar” amendment is a direct result of another ballot initiative that has been launched by the solar industry and environmental groups. In PACE’s view, the solar industry-backed ballot initiative completely deregulates small-scale solar installations, putting Florida’s energy consumers at great risk for higher electric bills, subsidies, and even government mandates requiring a minimum amount of solar energy be used in the state. It is easy to see why the for-profit solar industry would favor such an approach, but it’s more difficult to see why creating an unregulated marketplace for a select few energy providers is good for consumers.
“Solar energy will play a growing role in Florida’s energy future, and as prices for rooftop solar decline it will become a more viable option for many consumers,” explains PACE State Director of Operations Abbie MacIver. “Unfortunately, policies that favor one type of energy over another aren’t good for the marketplace and aren’t good for consumers. Those policies can artificially increase electric rates and set the stage for more heavy-handed government mandates and costly subsidies.”
A number of voices, including PACE and economists from MIT, have also argued that policies such as net metering that favor solar power can also cost non-solar customers more money. The “Smart Solar Amendment” takes steps to prevent that from happening in Florida.
“Florida consumers shouldn’t have to pay higher electric bills to make sure that out-of-state solar companies make a profit,” says PACE Executive Director Lance Brown. “The Smart Solar amendment will help ensure that all electric consumers in Florida are treated fairly and pay their fare share. We are pleased to join the growing number of voices supporting this initiative.”