One race was called early on Tuesday, when Florida voters resoundingly rejected a solar initiative backed almost entirely by utilities and their conservative partners.
Florida’s Amendment 1, titled “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” had been challenged by solar and consumer rights organizations as misleading.
And, indeed, in the days and weeks leading up to the vote, numerous Floridians reached out to ThinkProgress to say they had voted early, and erroneously, for a measure that sounded pro-solar but would have paved the way for utilities to crush the state’s nascent rooftop solar industry.
Given that as late as September, the measure was polling well in Florida, Tuesday’s outcome reflects a remarkable turnaround.
“Today was truly a solar uprising,” Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and a board member of Floridians for Solar Choice, two groups that opposed the amendment, said in a statement. Smith noted that this was the second time in a year that Florida voters have stood up for solar, after they passed an amendment to waive property taxes on solar equipment for businesses.
“The Sunshine State voters have spoken clearly: they want more solar friendly policies and the freedom to harness the sun’s power for the benefit of all Floridians and not just the monopoly utilities,” Smith said.
The monopoly utilities — including Florida Light & Power and Duke Energy — spent millions on Amendment 1. In fact, only $10 of the $24 million spent by the Consumers for Smart Solar campaign came from someone not directly related to the utilities or their conservative partners.
But the utilities got themselves in trouble after a vice president at the conservative James Madison Institute was caught on tape appearing to praise the measure’s duplicity.
Opponents of rooftop solar caught on tape praising deceptive measures to pass Florida initiativeFor more than a year, solar advocates have said that Florida’s Amendment 1, going before voters in November, is…thinkprogress.org“The point I would make, maybe the takeaway, is as you guys look at policy in your state or constitutional ballot initiatives in your state, remember this: solar polls very well,” Sal Nuzzo told a crowd of conservative state policy wonks in an October address uncovered by the Center for Media and Democracy and the Energy and Policy Institute.
“To the degree that we can use a little bit of political jiu-jitsu,” he continued, “and take what they’re kind of pinning us on and use it to our benefit either in policy, in legislation, or in constitutional referendums — if that’s the direction you want to take, use the language of promoting solar, and kind of, kind of put in these protections for consumers that choose not to install rooftop.”
The remarks were widely reported, prompting a renewed interest in the measure, which needed 60 percent of the vote to pass. Dozens of newspapers in the state published op-eds urging voters to oppose Amendment 1.