Florida Will Vote This Year On Measure That Would Block Solar Leasing In The State

Florida voteres will likely get a chance to vote against rooftop solar this November. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATT YORK
Florida voteres will likely get a chance to vote against rooftop solar this November. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATT YORK

Score one for the Koch brothers.

A measure that opponents say is intentionally confusing and will stifle solar growth was given the go-ahead by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday. It will appear on the Florida ballot in November.

Environmental and solar advocates challenged the measure, titled, “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” saying that it does not reflect any choice and does not create new rights. Sponsored by utility companies and other groups tied to the Koch brothers, the measure will prevent people from selling their electricity to third parties. This would effectively prevent solar leasing in the state, because under that system, an owner — usually a solar company — installs panels at a home and then sells the generated electricity back to the homeowner.

“This amendment hoodwinks voters by giving the impression that it will encourage the use of rooftop solar when, in fact, it would do the opposite,” Earthjustice attorney David Guest told the News Service of Florida.

The measure was proposed by a group called Consumers for Smart Solar, which has already spent nearly half a million dollars just getting the it on the ballot. A competing measure, which would have reduced barriers to rooftop solar, did not receive enough signatures to make the ballot.

Opposition Is Piling On A Proposal To Increase Access To Solar Power In FloridaClimate by CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN RAOUX A ballot petition to increase access to solar power in Florida has gotten a lot…thinkprogress.org“Florida families and businesses should be able to put the Sunshine State’s plentiful solar resource to work reducing bills, driving energy innovation and building healthier communities,” said Scott Thomasson from Vote Solar, a national non-profit solar advocacy organization. “The state should be reducing obstacles for consumers who want to invest in affordable solar, but instead this amendment adds more barriers.”

In a scathing dissent, Justice Barbara J. Pariente warned Floridians about the measure’s confusing language.

“Let the pro-solar energy consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo,” Pariente wrote. “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.”

She also pointed out that the measure takes pains to define even commonplace words such as “consumer,” but does not define “subsidy,” which is used in a misleading and unsubstantiated way in the measure. She said the concerns over solar customers shifting costs to other, non-solar customers were “speculative and not borne out in any present reality.”

“It is shameful that the utilities would go so far, and spend millions to manipulate and deceive their own customers,” Stephen Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said in a statement. “We will absolutely continue to shine a light on their dirty tricks and hope that the voters of Florida will see their ballot initiative for what is it: a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a sham designed to keep more money in the power companies pockets.”

All four justices who supported the measure’s inclusion were Republican nominees to the court. Two dissenting justices were nominated by a Democratic governor and the third, Pariente, has been nominated by both a Democrat and a Republican.