A second solar power ballot initiative arrived on Florida’s political grid Wednesday and it’s one that even big utilities can love. They should. They helped to write it, according to Florida Power & Light.
“Our company rarely weighs in on ballot initiatives, however, this situation is unique,” FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said.
For years Florida’s solar power advocates wanted big utilities to embrace solar, just not in a sleeper hold. Floridians for Solar Choice said a new initiative by Consumers for Smart Solar “is a slickly developed campaign” with a devious goal: confuse voters.
“We’re the grassroots. We’re the people begging and asking for choice,” Solar Choice chairman Tory Perfetti said Wednesday in a press conference.
Daly said Thursday that FPL officials met with “a wide range of individuals and groups, including those that are now leading Consumers for Smart Solar.”
“We have appreciated the opportunity to offer technical and policy assistance to Consumers for Smart Solar in the development of their amendment,” Daly said in an email. “We have not yet made a donation, but we certainly intend to join others in supporting the effort.”
Solar Choice’s proposal allows homes and businesses to generate and sell up to 2 megawatts of power a day to neighboring customers. The petition has 100,076 certified signatures, according to the state Division of Elections, and needs 683,149 total by Feb. 1 to put the solar question to voters.
The ballot proposal by Consumers for Smart Solar allows solar customers to sell energy to power companies. According to the initiative, customers who do not install solar will not “subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.”
"This is a issue that goes well beyond utilities," Daly said. "It's about whether Floridians should give up their basic rights simply to promote and subsidize a specific business interest."
Last year state regulators allowed FPL to end a system of rebates for customers who install new solar.
Smart Solar is led by former State Representatives Jim Kallinger, a Republican, and Democrat Dick Batchelor. Kallinger said Solar Choice was asked “to consider changes to its ballot language that would protect consumers … We’re here today because they refused.”
Solar Choice’s ballot proposal is opposed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and is in the hands of the state Supreme Court, which is expected to start hearing arguments Sept. 1.
“What this is [by Solar Choice] is an attempt by us to open up and give citizens further control of their own bills and have the ability to lower them,” Perfetti said. “And anyone who is standing against this is representing the actual elite class which controls how much people pay in this state.”
Another wrinkle in the dueling amendments involves dueling tea parties. Solar Choice is supported by a coalition of 50 groups, including the Tea Party Network and Debbie Dooley. Smart Solar’s coalition includes business groups, former lawmakers, and a former Public Service Commission chairman and says Solar Choice’s tea party is not Florida’s tea party movement.
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