The coalition against Florida’s deceptive solar amendment keeps growing

CREDIT: AP/J Pat Carter
CREDIT: AP/J Pat Carter

The constitutional amendment could hinder solar development in the Sunshine State.

An embattled Florida solar initiative got a new wave of bashing Friday, this time from Latino environmentalists and political leaders who say Amendment 1 would hinder the benefits solar power affords to the state’s Latinos.

Amendment 1, or the “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” would work against solar, critics say, by paving the way for utilities to add special charges for solar customers. Similar policies in the past have been blamed for gutting the rooftop solar business in Arizona and Nevada. The ballot initiative could also make solar leasing more difficult if not nearly impossible, critics say.

“We strongly oppose Amendment 1 because it solely ensures that big utilities maintain a monopoly on electricity,” Yulissa Arce, central Florida director at Organize Now, said in a call with reporters Friday. “It stifles the growth of the solar industry in the state of Florida, a state that is increasingly feeling the effects of climate change.”

The move from Latino groups and leaders took place as the state Supreme Court denied a motion to have it reevaluate the amendment’s language. The petitioners had also asked the Secretary of State to embargo the results of the vote until the court made a decision.

The initiative has been under fire for more than a year, with critics calling it intentionally misleading. Attacks intensified last month after audio released revealed that backers of Amendment 1 are counting on the popularity of solar industry as to help garner support for a policy that is expected to hurt the development of rooftop solar in Florida.

“Amendment 1 was a deceptive bill that was only made to confuse voters this election cycle,” Arce said. “It also misleads voters by promising rights and protections that Florida citizens already have.”

Lucy Flores, a former Nevada Assemblymember, told reporters that Nevada has experience with similar anti-solar policies, which ended up “killing” the state’s booming solar industry, which had taken years to nurture.

“The [Nevada] Public Utilities Commission ultimately ended up [doing] exactly what Amended 1 is proposing to do in Florida,” Flores said. “And the result of that was over 8,000 jobs that were lost almost overnight.”

The campaign for Amendment 1 has been mostly supported by energy utilities. All but $10 out of the more than $26 million pro-Amendment 1 campaign money can be directly tied to utilities or conservative groups linked to utilities. Just in the last two weeks, Florida Light & Power, and Duke Energy, invested another $3 million to the amendment’s backer, Consumers for Smart Solar.

In response, environmental organizations have been active in getting voters to dismiss Amendment 1, they said. Florida Conservation Voters, one of the largest state groups opposing the initiative, have reached about half a million voters via email to explain what the policy would actually do. It has also texted 100,000 voters and even reached some voters via telephone.

“And that’s just what Florida Conservation Voters are doing,” said Aliki Moncrief, the group’s executive director. “Partners like Organize Now and of course, the Floridians for Solar Choice … [have] been doing an amazing job in getting every editorial board in the state to come out against Amendment 1 multiple times.”

A late September poll showed 66 percent of voters backing Amendment 1, despite the implications, although the late press by environmentalists, solar companies, and other interested parties seems to be working. Support for the measure was only 40 percent in late October.

“Saying no to Amendment 1 is saying yes to a community’s health,” said Jennifer Allen, national director of the League of Conservation Voters Chispa program. “We must defeat Amendment 1.”