» Tory Perfetti


For solar advocates in Florida, dim prospects for 2016 ballot

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
December 18, 2015 10:08 am

Floridians for Solar Choice is “exploring options for 2018” after coalition leaders said Thursday their yearlong amendment drive is unlikely to qualify for next November’s ballot. "We are looking at options,” said Mike Antheil, a Solar Choice board member. “But not the inevitability of opening Florida's solar market."

Solar Choice has 271,458 verified signatures on a petition that allows homeowners and businesses to install and sell solar that generates up to 2 megawatts of electricity, creating door-to-door competition with old-guard utilities. The coalition needs 683,149 to get on the 2016 ballot.

Solarchoice.jpgSolar Choice said there are more than 200,000 additional signatures waiting for approval by the state Division of Elections but a Feb. 1 deadline looms.

“While utilities' opposition … continues, they have not succeeded in killing our efforts altogether,” said Antheil, executive director of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

State power companies, led by FPL, countered Solar Choice with a rival solar amendment in July, pouring roughly $6 million into Consumers for Smart Solar. And with 412,997 valid signatures, Smart Solar — Florida's richest political committee in 2015 — has a shot at the ballot.

Solar Choice raised about $2 million since its campaign for solar energy policy started in January — that's $300,000 less than Smart Solar spent in November. At a Tallahassee press conference at the time, Stephen Smith, head of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, estimated Solar Choice might need to raise $8 million to $10 million to fight pushback by utilities.

solarpic.jpg"Solar Choice has run a strong campaign,” coalition chairman Tory Perfetti said. "We have faced vicious opposition with a goal to stop the grassroots movement comprising the full political spectrum as well as the business community. The monopoly utilities have succeeded in making the qualification for 2016 very difficult, but we are well positioned for 2018.”

According to FloridaPolitics.com, Solar Choice is also involved in a dispute over back payments with a California consulting firm that was paid more than $1 million to collect signatures. In Thursday’s email statement, Solar Choice said, “We are actively working to resolve issues for these petitions to be released for verification.”

Signatures for Solar Choice will be valid for 24 months.

Smith said Solar Choice used the past several weeks to discuss strategy with more than 65 coalition organizations and a statewide network of volunteers.

"We know that petitions are good for 24 months and valid for 2018, which gives us lots of options," Smith said. "Despite the [utilities] we are committed to bringing forward good policies that overcome the barriers to solar in the Florida market."


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