Our Florida legislature is in the process of putting together a more friendly renewable energy environment. Its focus in recent years has been on solar, which makes sense being the sunshine state. Right now a solar array is exempt from sales taxes and has a net metering law to purchase excess power from an array. The sales tax exemption has been in place since 1997 and was made permanent in 2005. Net metering was put into law in 2008 allowing the producer to receive credits for their excess power and then a true up at the end of the year where they receive a rebate for remaining credits. On the ballots coming up are 2 amendments that will directly affect solar and renewable energy, amendment 4 in August and amendment 1 in November.
Amendment 4 is referred to as the Florida Solar Choice Amendment and is sponsored by Senator John Brandes, Representative Ray Rodriguez, and Representative Lori Berman. It had an auspicious route to the ballot where it went before the Florida Supreme Court for approval due to a questions regarding clarity of the language and the signatures on the petition to bring it to the legislature, which it won on 4-3 decision. What the amendment does is exempt property taxes on an installation for the next 20 years. The tax implication is considered by many as the reason why large commercial businesses have not adopted solar. Residential consumers would have relief in the property tax that in turn would be beneficial to greater solar adoption. Often it is believe that solar is an outrageous expense, when costs are comparable to utility power.
Looking at the backers of amendment 4, there is Floridians for Solar Choice and a grass roots coalition of solar industry groups along with business supporters. Who as a group collected the signatures for the petition to move the amendment forward on to the ballot coming up for a vote August 30. As a coalition they have been tireless doing training for volunteers, going door to door in areas and hosting events throughout the region. There is a reassurance in an idea that has such a community following.
Amendment 1 is referred to as the Smart Solar Amendment and is sponsored by Consumers for Smart Solar, chaired by Jim Kallinger. The sponsoring group is a political committee who’s members have large campaign contributions by local utilities and related interests. The amendment itself seeks to codify ownership of solar and renewable energy systems as a right and limit the impact of costs in connection to such systems on non-owners. The utility grid is used by solar homes when the sun is not available and is the back up to grid inter-tie systems, which is the most common connection.
Those supporting amendment 1 have connections to lobbyists for major utility industry players like Duke Energy parent company of Florida Power and Light (FPL) and Tampa Electric. Among the other major contributors are chambers of commerce and social groups. The well made videos in support of the amendment are quite polished and can be found on their facebook page
Taking in the details of the 2 amendments it is evident that the Solar Choice is one supported by the people and its simple language suggests its easier adoption and ensure that in the long run there will be considerable savings in making the move to solar as a home improvement. While it is understandable that Smart Solar would not want any added expense to be passed on to a neighbor who has yet to go solar, it seems premature that there will even be such an expense. In the entire State of Florida there are only, roughly, 12,000 solar arrays. The utility grid itself is well maintained by the utilities and it seems prudent that having a large number of homes using solar at peak energy times would actually be to their benefit and an overall savings to everyone. Please look into each amendments closely and make an informed decision on how best to move forward.
Go forth and spread sunshine,
Independent Energy Advisor
Clean Renewable Energy Worldwide