- Florida voters last night overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that will eliminate property taxes on solar panels installed at commercial and industrial facilities, a move to boost renewable energy that garnered bipartisan support and faced little controversy.
- According to Florida Politics, Amendment 4 had received almost 75% of votes cast in yesterday's primary, more than the 60% required to pass.
- But the vote, and its strong support from both sides of the aisle, is not any kind of preview of another solar ballot initiative Florida will consider later this year. The state is embroiled in a fierce debate over solar policy, and a utility-supported measure will face far greater resistance this November, Florida Politics reports.
When Florida lawmakers voted earlier this year to put Amendment 4 on the ballot, they did so with strong bipartisan support. Eliminating personal property taxes on solar panels was an easy sell in a state that is currently dealing more with contentious renewable issues.
"This vote sends a strong signal that Florida is open for business and the well-paying jobs and economic benefits that solar provides," Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. "Amendment 4 removes financial barriers to smart local investment. It’s clear, Floridians want better access to affordable, clean energy options and this vote is a significant step in the right direction."
According to Sen. Jeff Brandes (R), a sponsor of the bill which backed the amendment, the decision will help grow solar and renewable energy in the state, and could create thousands of jobs.
“The strong showing of support for Amendment 4 sends a clear message to elected officials at all levels of government that Florida voters want more diversity in our energy market," Brandes said in a statement.
The measure had broad support from business groups and clean energy advocates alike, according to advocacy group Vote Solar. The amendment had more than 200 endorsements, the group said, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida Realtors and Florida Conservation Voters,.
But looking ahead to the general election in November, expect a very different kind of atmosphere when it comes to voting on solar issues. While Amendment 4 had bipartisan support, another solar ballot initiative, Amendment 1, is a very different beast.
Backed by the state's utilities, the Florida Supreme Court earlier this year approved language for a ballot initiative to establish a right for consumers to own or lease solar equipment. But while that sounds positive for solar, advocates say it is not, claiming it will allow utilities to impose discriminatory charges and rates on solar owners. In the proposed amendment, non-rooftop solar customers are not responsible for paying additional costs for grid upkeep.
Amendment 1 is sponsored by Consumers for Solar Choice, a utility-supported group. Another measure, backed by Floridians for Solar Choice, did not make it onto the ballot but would have legalized third party ownership of distributed solar.