4 Reasons to Vote NO on Florida’s (Anti-) Solar Amendment 1

, senior energy analyst, Clean Energy | November 4, 2016, 10:35 am EST
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UPDATE (November 9, 2016): You did it, Florida! The utilities and their Koch-funded allies way outspent opponents in their push to get this anti-solar measure passed. But Amendment 1 still got only 51% of the vote—way short of the 60% it needed to pass. Even when companies and organizations muddy the waters and throw up smokescreens, solar still shines bright. Well done, Sunshine State.

Floridians are making a lot of important choices next week. One that’s not getting quite the same level of attention, but is important anyway, is about a ballot initiative on solar. Anything having to do with solar must be a great thing, right? That’s just what the proponents want us to think. Here are four reasons why Florida voters should reject this anti-solar “solar” proposal:

Source: Floridians for Solar Choice

Pretty straight forward (Source: Floridians for Solar Choice)

  1. Amendment 1 pretends to be supportive of solar and consumers, but would actually harm it/them/us. Amendment 1 purports to give Florida residents the right to own or lease solar for personal use. But—and there are lots of “buts”—that’s a right they already have, the narrow definition of “lease” would actually make things harder for would-be customers, and it would give local governments the power to severely limit solar adoption, based on some undefined notion of “subsidy”. In short, Amendment 1 adds nothing and takes away plenty.
  2. The pro-amendment money has all come from the utilities and fossil fuel interests—not people. The sources for the money pushing for this ballot (and there’s a lot of it) are really telling. As the Energy and Policy Institute reports, out of more than $26 million contributed toward getting this thing passed, only $305 (that is, $0.000305 million) had come from individual donors (maybe including lots of employees of the pro-amendment organizations). That means 99.9988% from the likes of FPL and Duke Energy, along with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil. Utilities, at least, aren’t always on the wrong side, but in this case, with Florida being #3 in the country for solar potential but way down at #14 in terms of installed solar, you can bet that they haven’t been helpful in the push to harness the sun. On the opposing side, by contrast, the NO-on-Amendment-1 list is really pretty impressive, and remarkably diverse.

    Follow the money to see who's only pretending to be pro-solar (Credit: Energy and Policy Institute)

    Follow the money to see who’s only pretending to be pro-solar (Credit: Energy and Policy Institute)

  3. Amendment 1 proponents know it’s deceitful. A leaked recording of someone from the pro-amendment side showed him admitting that this is basically a hoodwinking based on solar’s good name, a “political jiu-jitsu.” That is, they couched this as a yes-for-solar even though it’s really not. And after the leak the pro-amendment folks tried to cover their tracks after the fact: “Once caught,” writes Sarah Gilliam of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, “the sham solar group scrubbed their website and social media channels of any connection to their former ally.” Alas for them, we’re smarter than that (and the internet tends to hold on to things), so the connections are clear.
  4. Amendment 1 hurt Florida’s chances for a real solar amendment. Amendment 1 derailed another proposal that would likely have removed major barriers to solar growth and dramatically increased solar’s attractiveness—and that had support from groups across the political spectrum. Amendment 1 was aimed at muddying the waters to keep the other one from getting the necessary signatures to get on the ballot, and it worked.

Given all the problems with the Amendment 1’s language, it probably shouldn’t even have made it this far. The Florida Supreme Court actually almost killed it in March, allowing it to go forward by only a one-vote margin (4-3). In that decision, the minority was eloquent—and scathing—in its dissent (starting on p. 23), with Justice Barbara Pariente writing for the dissenters:

Let the pro-solar energy consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment… actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo… The ballot title is affirmatively misleading by its focus on “Solar Energy Choice,” when no real choice exists for those who favor expansion of solar energy… This ballot initiative is the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing”… [whose] real purpose… [is] to place a critical restriction on [consumer’s] rights…

Solar is counting on you, Florida

Since the court allowed the initiative to go forward, though, it’s up to you now, Florida voters. The polls are headed in the right direction, with Amendment 1 losing support. But polls aren’t votes.

And votes are voices. As Justice Pariente said in her dissent, “Clearly, this is an amendment geared to ensure nothing changes with respect to the use of solar energy in Florida—it is not a ‘pro-solar’ amendment.”

So don’t just beware, pro-solar energy consumers in Florida. Be engaged. This is your chance to strike a blow for solar in the Sunshine State. Next Tuesday, vote NO on Amendment 1.

 

Floridians for Solar Choice
Energy and Policy Institute

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  • 295Phoenix

    This is a huge victory for us and thank goodness constitutional amendments need 60% of the vote to pass! Nice to see that money isn’t enough to pass a wolf in sheep’s clothing amendment.

    • ucsjrogers

      Congrats, 295, to all of you who worked so hard to show the wolf for what it was. Thanks.

  • SouthernTide7

    Thank you for posting this. I am amazed at how word of mouth was able to counter 20 million in misleading advertising.
    Thank you!

    • ucsjrogers

      Sometimes We the People find our way to the right answer, ST7, however circuitous the route or overwhelming the odds. Not always, and not as often as we need to. But sometimes. – J

      • SouthernTide7

        yes. It is those “sometimes” events that keep the spark of hope alive in me, and provide a path through the dark that seems to be enveloping us.

        Thanks again for your efforts…

  • solodoctor

    As I do not live in Fla I had not heard of this Amendment before. THANKS for bringing it to my attention. I will look to see what the results after next Tuesday’s election. Hopefully, it will be “No.”

    • ucsjrogers

      Thanks, Solo. I’m with you. – John

  • Thomas Patrick O’Reilly

    The opposition to this proposed Amendment sounds like it was drafted by a politician. The only question I have (as a non-solar power user), is who will pay for the additional costs associated with providing supplemental energy to the solar users?

    I’m perfectly okay with solar users, and I might even want to do that myself at some time. But why should my decision to use solar energy burden other rate-payers? If I decide to use solar, and it turned out that my system fails to generate my required needs consistently (a regular occurrence I have read), why should I be able to pick up the additional power at the same rate as non-solar users––if there is an additional cost to provide me with that supplemental power. And of course, there is an additional cost as that is the purpose of the amendment.

    Does anyone have an answer to this question? And I mean a straightforward answer––not the non-sensical bull roar that is written above.

    • Debi

      That is provided by the power companies just as it is currently to solar users. And it costs nothing more to anyone else other than the user just as your own bill doesn’t. By using solar as much as possible you just lower your usage which would lower or eliminate you bill. Which is why you should be asking yourself why are there so many energy providers with profits to lose behind it? You should actually do a little more research. There are many more articles written on this Amendment that could provide you greater insight. This one just gives the basic information for people who do not actually understand the Amendment (which was the whole point of writing it the way they did) and do not have the time or patience to delve into it further.

      • ucsjrogers

        Thanks for weighing in, Thomas and Debi.

        The point about opposing Amendment 1 is that more solar generally turns out to be a good thing — for everyone concerned. There’s certainly a value to having solar on your own house, in terms of lowering your own electricity bill, and (depending on how much the solar system cost you) potentially even saving money overall.

        What’s missing from the utilities’ anti-solar stance is that solar is often good even for people who don’t have it on their own houses. That’s because solar systems often provide energy/capacity when we need it most, on hot summer afternoons. That’s when utilities have generally had to depend on much more expensive (and more polluting) “peaker” plants. Avoiding the use of those can have implications all year round. That’s what solar can do for us.

        And more, actually. RMI has a great discussion of the various things that can come into play when assessing the value of solar here: http://www.rmi.org/elab_empower. It includes energy and capacity (power), but also grid support services, risk mitigation tools, and environmental and social things.

        But that’s a topic for another blogpost, another day. For now, just know that fighting to protect your right to solar isn’t just about you; it’s also about your neighbors and others who may never get around to exercising that right. That’s why this is so important, and why a no vote is the way to go. Some utilities may see it differently, but sometimes people need to lead the way, and count on them to follow.

        Thanks,

        John

    • SouthernTide7

      Hi Thomas.
      I can tell you as the owners of solar roof panels, we paid for everything out of our pocket for installation, electrical hook up by professionals, tie ins to the grid by professionals, which were then inspected by the local government and the power company and certified.

      The power company and other utilities companies paid zero for our system. It is also not legal for us to disconnect from the grid in our area. It is also not permitted to generate more than we use, which I believe is wrong.

      When we generate excess power in the day, it goes right back to the grid, and our neighbors can take advantage of clean solar, at no extra cost. We also have to pay the maintenance taxes as well on our system.

      We see it this way: We are contributing to clean power generation for our local community and decreasing the need for more dirty fuel generation in the future. The more people that have solar, the better. Though we were in a position to finance our system, many people cant. So a lease program may be better for them….

      Hope that helps…

      • Thomas Patrick O’Reilly

        Thank you for that response, and as I understand your answer, you seem to be alright with having non-solar users bearing the additional costs that are created by solar users. I sense that you feel you are doing something positive for the environment and that, therefore, non-solar users must pay for that decision you have made. Respectfully, I disagree.

        First, I do understand that you pay for your solar equipment much as I paid for my geo-thermal system up north. I also understand your concern about the requirement that all excess power be returned to the power company, but I think you’ll agree that that’s an unrelated issue inasmuch as there really is no reasonable alternative––unless, of course you believe that solar users should be permitted to allow excess power to simply disparate. I am certain you do not feel that way, and I am confident when that provision of the law was added, the solar users did not oppose it.

        But more to the point, non-solar users, like myself, disagree with your assumption that climate change is actually real. I understand that you do, but for a great many of us who have refused to be bullied and brainwashed into accepting a globalist redistribution of wealth scheme masked as a fraudulent AGW crisis, we object. Watching those who have no problem with being led around by the nose may be one thing, but contributing to what many of us is their foolish decision-making is something entirely different.

        Our discussion is academic, of course, since the amendment was defeated.

        Tom O’Reilly

      • SouthernTide7

        Thomas. Please tell me where you pay in any way, shape or form for my solar. Go for it.

        It is clear that you are one of those who live in the bubble and think that climate change is not happening. As a scientist, I base my thoughts on facts, not rhetoric and the millions upon millions of dollars spent on misleading the public on this event.

        It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that sea levels are rising. Let me try to put it in a simple form that perhaps you can understand. Talk to people in Miami who have lived there for generations, who are seeing water bubbling up in their yards. Not rain related, but tidal related. Tell that to the Navy, who has the best oceanographers in the world, who are preparing the bases against sea level rise. Tell that to melting ice caps that have been there as long as humans, and are now disappearing. I wont argue this fact that is is changing rapidly with you, as people like you don’t typically adhere to vetted science or facts. So why waste my time?

        That said, you do know that the tea party and conservative groups voted against this also right? Its a matter of free enterprise.

        While you dont pay for solar users, we certainly pay for the health care and other costs that generating dirty power causes. That would be you. Please lay out how it costs you, the non solar user money for me to pay for a system that generates power at the same rates you pay for…..

  • SouthernTide7

    Thank you for posting this. We all voted no, as it will hamper true solar growth in Florida.
    Talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

  • Stacy Don

    Thanks for making unsuspecting consumers aware of this Trojan horse amendment. Vote NO! on this sham amendment 1.

    • ucsjrogers

      Thanks, Stacy and SouthernTide. We’re certainly hoping that solar-loving people take the chance to vote down this amendment. We’ll know soon. – John