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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.