MIAMI HERALD: Florida voters say no to misleading solar amendment
Florida voters rejected Amendment 1, the utility-backed measure to limit rooftop solar expansion, after a scrappy, grassroots campaign and last-minute revelations raised doubts about the proponents’ claims that their goal was to expand solar generation.
The amendment attempted to use the popularity of solar to embed new language into the Florida Constitution that could have been used as a legal barrier to raise fees on solar users and keep out companies that want to compete with the utilities to provide solar energy generation.
Amendment 1 would have given Floridians a constitutional right to use rooftop solar power and mandated that government agencies protect customers both involved and not involved with rooftop solar. But the solar industry and environmentalists charged that the amendment was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, misleadingly designed by electric utilities to restrict rooftop solar.
They say it could have led to restrictions in the ability of Floridians to sell power they generate to utilities, and to have third-party companies install solar panels. The amendment needed 60 percent of the votes to pass.
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“This 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.
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The amendment failed to pass despite getting 51 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results available on election night. That’s short of the 60 percent needed to make it into law. Under current state law, homeowners can already own or lease solar panels and generate their own electricity. Amendment 1 would have inserted that law into the constitution, making it harder for lawmakers to change it. But it also would have allowed utilities to charge solar users for the energy they use when the panels don’t pack enough power for the home.
Major utility companies like Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy and Gulf Power spent $25.5 million to push the amendment, including $4.4 million in the final two weeks.