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In a Blow to Utilities, Alternative-Energy Coalition Proposes Solar Power Amendment For 2016 Ballot

| January 14, 2015

Utilities will try hard to stop a proposed constitutional amendment that would make solar power

Utilities will try hard to stop a proposed constitutional amendment that would make solar power

Businesses and property owners would be able to sell a limited amount of solar energy under a ballot initiative rolled out Wednesday by a coalition that brings together free-market conservatives, retailers and alternative-energy supporters.

The proposed constitutional amendment is expected to face opposition from large power companies, which offered little comment Wednesday.

Backers of the initiative said during a news conference in Tallahassee that they are using the constitutional amendment route because well-funded utilities have repeatedly lobbied the Legislature and the Florida Public Service Commission against expanding solar and other alternative-energy choices.

“Using a constitutional amendment to the ballot is not the best way to make energy policy,” said Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “But if the system is broken, and we have no other way to actually get good policy in the state and allow such a positive thing as solar power to flourish, then we have to take it straight to the people.”

Tory Perfetti, chairman of the coalition dubbed “Floridians for Solar Choice,” said it remains to be seen how the utilities will react to the ballot drive, but he expects they will mount a sizable opposition.

An unlikely coalition of conservatives and environmentalists tries to circumvent the utility lobby’s block on solar.

In addition to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the coalition includes the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, the Christian Coalition of America, the Libertarian Party of Florida, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida.

Smith estimated that the coalition might have to raise $8 million to $10 million to counter the anticipated opposition.

“If we can get this thing on the ballot, it will pass,” said Alexander Snitker, vice president of the Libertarian Party of Florida. “Who is the opposition? The opposition is the people who are profiting off the current monopoly they have right now.”

Asked about the proposed amendment, Duke Energy Florida spokesman Sterling Ivey said in an email Wednesday that solar and other renewable sources will be an important part of Florida’s energy future.

“We are committed to energy policies where solar options are fair and beneficial to all of our customers,” Ivey said in the email. “Our 4,000 Florida employees will continue to work hard every day to ensure we are providing reliable and safe electricity to our 1.7 million customers.”

A spokeswoman for Florida Power & Light declined to comment.

The amendment, in part, would allow businesses to generate and sell up to two megawatts of power to customers on the same or neighboring properties.

Smith estimated that the two-megawatt total would cover the daily use at a typical Wal-Mart.

The initiative, which was filed Dec. 23 with the Department of State, will require Floridians for Solar Choice to get the signatures of roughly 700,000 voters to get on the November 2016 ballot. Also, the ballot language would have to be approved by the state Supreme Court.

The press conference came less than two months after the Public Service Commission narrowly accepted a controversial staff recommendation that will reduce overall energy-efficiency goals for power companies.

The changes to the energy-efficiency standards didn’t go as far as FPL, Duke, Tampa Electric Co., Gulf Power Co. and JEA in Jacksonville had requested, but utility officials called the staff-backed changes “realistic.”

Utility officials have argued that the economic advantage of conservation has waned as reliance on natural gas has grown and that the state’s solar-rebate program has not attracted widespread use.

FPL’s solar-installation program has been used by about 900 of its 4.7 million customers at a cost of $16.5 million over the past three years. Last year, Duke spent $1.4 million for solar programs, which were approved for about 150 of its 1.7 million customers.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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8 Responses for “In a Blow to Utilities, Alternative-Energy Coalition Proposes Solar Power Amendment For 2016 Ballot”

  1. Lancer says:

    Totally ridiculous. Solar does NOT have the capacity or cost effectiveness to meet consumer demand through our grids. It is SUPPLEMENTAL power only, residential. The solar cell technology, while promising, has not developed to the point of meeting our current energy demands.

  2. Anita says:

    Perhaps solar energy is still a work in progress, but considering this IS the “Sunshine” State it’s surely worth a fair trial. Energy companies are primarily sensitive to and responsible for boosting shareholder profits. Period. Those of us who are concerned with climate change as well as soaring energy costs would like alternatives to current offerings. Plus, the people are smart enough to determine when something is not working, but if solar does live up to its potential, it offers the consumer options and isn’t that what a REAL free market should do?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a great idea as long as it does not include using tax $$$

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On Anita!

    Solar power has massive potential to produce CLEAN, MUCH CHEAPER energy for us all. The problem Energy Company/OIL LOBBYISTS who have kept the Solar technology from being perfected and put into “mass production”! Those companies, focused only on maximizing their profits, just can’t figure out how to charge big bucks for sunshine. They will do anything to stop alternative energy sources. . . they could care less about our environment or the consumer!

  5. Lancer says:


    The math is undeniable that solar can’t support a grid efficiently. Florida already uses solar panels, residentially, more than many states for their pools and supplemental residential power, which is good. The solar cell technology is NOT capable of coming even remotely close, in terms of:

    1. Providing for our current electrical demands.
    2. Being reasonable on a Price per Kilowatt basis.
    3. The maintenance costs for solar facilities are astronomical.
    4. The amount of land needed to place any effective solar facility is vast and unjustifiable.

    Solar is NOT a feasible mass electrical producing option from a grid standpoint.

    Most solar proponents try to throw Germany’s solar policies as the model. Germany has been very successful in their solar endeavors. However, Germany augments its current electrical demands through private, residential solar applications. Germany’s government cut the costs of permits dramatically. Many residential homes placed solar panels on their homes.

    This is a common sense approach because:
    1. Residences supplement their own power use.
    2. Panels go on residential ceilings, which were unused space that could be utilized.

    Florida would be better served easing permit restrictions and prices to promote more private, residential solar panels to be placed. That’s the direction! However, solar lobbyists and such want large facilities because it’s federally supplemented b y tax dollars!

  6. Outsider says:

    While I am a proponent of solar power, I also can understand why the power companies might not be fond of the idea of other people getting free use of their infrastructure to deliver power to others at a profit. It costs vast amounts of money to build and maintain a power grid. The government recognizes this and thus considers power companies a “natural monopoly,” an endeavor so costly that the government allows it to operate as a monopoly in exchange for a voice in controlling the rates, in a fair manner via a regulatory commission. Absent an agreement that would allow the power company to buy this solar power at a wholesale price and resell it at retail, they would in effect be partially nationalizing a power grid a private, yes, for profit company spent billions of dollars creating.

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    Exactly why vital services like electricity should not necessarily be developed and managed with their sole purpose of maximizing profits. Perhaps they should be moving more towards a quasi non-profit or quasi governmental services model. Alternative energy sources and green technologies may never be fully developed until the motivation is shifted away from the GREED that we are experiencing as the down side of capitalism! American greed . . . which is likely the foundational problem that has created our currently huge income disparity gap.

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