- Consumers for Smart Solar (CSS), a utility-backed group in Florida pushing a solar ballot initiative, spent almost $268,000 in March as it shepherded the language of its ballot proposal through the approval process at the Florida Supreme Court, the blog Florida Politics reports.
- To date, the group has raised more than $7 million, much of it from state electricity companies and businesses. The court’s 4-3 approval was the final hurdle for the utility-backed measure to appear on the 2016 ballot, and CSS reportedly spent over $101,000 last month for the legal services of former Florida Supreme Court justice Raoul Cantero.
- With plentiful resources, CSS had little trouble obtaining the required petition signatures for its proposal, which would establish consumer right to solar but not allow for third-party ownership (TPO) of rooftop systems. Not so for Floridians for Solar Choice, a group pushing a pro-TPO proposal which failed to garner enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
Florida's major investor-owned electric utilities — including Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric — donated a total of nearly $4 million to CSS, Politico reported in February.
In filings for the Supreme Court deliberation, the utilities said the CSS proposal "provides an essential, balanced approach to what is expected to be the continuing development and expansion of solar power in Florida."
The CSS initiative was created in response to a rival ballot proposal from Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC). That measure would have legalized third party ownership (TPO) of distributed solar in Florida and allowed customers with systems of 2 MW or less to sell electricity directly to other consumers. That business model, solar advocates say, has been shown effective in spurring sector growth in other states.
“We look forward to making our case to the people of Florida,” CSS Co-Chair Dick Batchelor, a former state legislator, said after court approval for his proposal language last month.