Environmentalists: Wording of Florida Amendment 1 on solar could dupe voters

by: Jeanna Bourne, Action News Jax Updated:

Some environmentalists are concerned Florida voters are being duped in the fight for solar power.

Environmentalists said the wording of Amendment 1 is misleading, and it actually means homeowners with solar panels could be penalized by power companies for opting out.

“This is a monopoly wolf in solar sheep’s clothing,” said Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Executive Director Stephen Smith.


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Smith said Amendment 1 is a bait-and-switch operation. He worries that voters will check "yes," thinking they’re voting pro-solar, when the opposite is true.

“Basically the big utility companies have spent $22 million in an effort to deceive Florida voters,” said Smith.

The policy director of a think tank supported by Florida power companies appears to admit it in a recording first reported by the Miami Herald.

“Solar polls do really well, to the degree that we can use a little political jiujitsu and take what they’re kind of hitting us on and use it to our benefit, either in policy and legislation, or in constitutional referendums if that’s the direction we want to take,” said Sal Nuzzo, who is vice president of policy at James Madison Institute, at a conference.

The exact wording of the amendment, as it appears on Florida ballots:

NO. 1 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
 
ARTICLE X, SECTION 29
 
Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
 
This amendment establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.
 
The amendment is not expected to result in an increase or decrease in any revenues or costs to state and local government.
 
YES NO

The first sentence of Amendment 1 establishes a right for consumers to own or lease solar equipment.

That’s a right you already have. It’s like adding a constitutional amendment giving you the right to own a couch.

The second sentence said power customers who don’t install solar can’t be required to subsidize customers who do.


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Smith said what this really does is open up the power companies’ ability to penalize solar customers for buying less energy.

“They want to put punitive charges or discriminatory charges on customers if they do solar,” said Smith.

“Anything that happens down the road is speculation,” said Screven Watson, a board member of Consumers for Smart Solar, the big political committee that’s backing Amendment 1. “I can’t understand why this is being cast as anti-solar…. Amendment 1 doesn’t give utility companies any power. It gives government power.”

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