Solar Choice Ballot Initiative Goes to Florida Supreme Court

Florida proudly describes itself as the “Sunshine State”.  The state’s tropical and subtropcal climate is a warm and sunny sanctuary for many northerners in the winter, as well as its millions of year-round residents.  Florida averages anywhere from 230 to 260 sunny days per year depending on location, so it is no wonder that homeowners and businesses are wanting to take advantage of this incredible clean resource and adopt solar energy.  Apparently this easier said than done in a state that has banned employees from using the term “climate change” and has been run by one so-called free market republican administration after another.

Florida is one of only four states that bans citizens from buying electricity from any company other than a utility.  This means that residents cannot take advantage of Florida’s abundant solar resources without having a significant amount of capital to pay the upfront cost of a solar energy system.  A homeowner cannot lease a solar PV system for their roof, nor can a landlord install panels on a roof and sell the solar energy to their tenant.

Floridians for Solar Choice, a broad coalition of businesses, individuals and environmental organizations, is trying to place a question on the state’s 2016 general election ballot asking voters to decide on expanding solar choice for Florida’s families and businesses. The ballot initiative would remove this barrier that currently blocks clean, renewable solar power.

In order to get this ballot initiative in front of the voters in 2016, it must be approved by the Florida Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court hearing was today and the utility companies (Florida Power and Light Co, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co,  Gulf Power Co and the Florida Electric Cooperatives) had their team of lawyers there to try to protect their monopoly.

The Supreme Court  is to decide on whether the ballot summary accurately depicts the proposal and covers a single topic, but the Utility Companies’ lawyers seemed to want to argue the merits of the initiative itself.

According to Reuters, Stephen Grimes, who was representing the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association,said the amendment would strip the PSC and local governments of some regulatory powers, (even though the ballot summary does not say so) and  Barry Richard, representing Florida Power & Light Co, Tampa Electric Co and Duke Energy Florida and Gulf Power Co, claimed the amendment deals with regulatory matters at state, county and city levels, more than one topic, and that its summary suggests the state placed “unfavorable” terms on solar providers.

There is no timeline on when the court will reach their decision on the ballot initiative, but it is clear that utilities will continue the fight to protect their monopoly and stranglehold on energy consumers in the United States.

Tracey Smith About Tracey Smith
Tracey is an accountant and entrepreneur with a passion for nature. This passion is what spurred her interest in renewable energy, and the rest is history as they say. Tracey is a principal in Energy Think Group, the publisher of Solar Thermal Magazine and Tek-Think. She is also the principal at Women's Financial Help Desk. She spends her free time in the outdoors with her horses and dogs. She loves to travel.

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