Utility-backed Florida solar amendment nabs qualifying signatures for 2016 ballot

Dive Brief:

  • Consumers for Smart Solar, a political action committee supported by Florida's electric utilities, has garnered more than enough validated signatures to qualify its proposed solar amendment for the state's 2016 election ballot, Florida Politics reports.  
  • CSS was formed in response to the advocacy group Floridians for Solar Choice, which aims to legalize third-party owned (TPO) solar leasing and allow small-scale developers to sell their electricity directly without being classified as a utility. By contrast, CSS proposed an amendment that would allow Florida solar owners to sell their generation to the state’s utilities and guarantee there will be no cost-shift to non-solar owners.
  • The final hurdle for CSS's proposal is a Florida Supreme Court decision to approve the measure's language, but FSC argues that the organization's language is misleading. A court decision is due on April 1. 

Dive Insight:

Florida is considered a sleeping giant of solar potential, but prohibiting TPO leasing for rooftop solar has possibly slowed its growth, critics say. 

Two dueling amendments are now trying to resolve whether or not third-party providers have the right to sell electricity directly to consumers without being classified as a utility and, therefore, under the purview of Florida's regulatory scheme. 

While the FSC's language was approved earlier in 2015 for the upcoming election ballot this year, a payment dispute with a consulting firm hired to secure signed petitions failed to help it nab the required number of signatures. The FSC is "exploring options for 2018." Meanwhile, the CSS amendment has secured 695,376 validated signatures, about 11,000 more than the 683,149 required to qualify it for the 2016 ballot. 

The FSC proposal would legalize third party ownership of distributed solar in Florida and allow customers with systems of 2 MW or less to sell electricity directly to other consumers. The CSS proposal would establish a constitutional right in Florida for customers “to own or lease solar” but wouldn't legalize TPO financing.

FSC has been called a Green Tea coalition because it includes the Tea Party Network, Republican conservatives, the Sierra Club, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). 

CSS is a coalition of former state legislators, several Florida Chambers of Commerce, and the state’s electric utilities, including Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, and Tampa Electric Co.

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Florida Politics: Consumers For Smart Solar Claims It Has Enough Signatures To Qualify For Ballot