Floridians for Solar Choice joins other parties in filing briefs with Florida’s Supreme Court opposing the utility-backed constitutional amendment, which proposes to maintain Florida’s regulatory status quo for solar energy. Calling the utility-backed solar amendment misleading, solar supporters note the utilities’ proposal was launched only to confuse voters and counter the success of the broadly supported grassroots campaign launched by Floridians for Solar Choice.
“It is a cynical proposal designed to confuse voters. Its ballot language falsely tells voters that the amendment gives people the right to make a solar energy choice, when in fact it gives them nothing more than what they already have under the Florida Constitution’s basic rights and under general law – the ability to own or lease the solar equipment they use to make electricity at their homes and businesses,” said Bill Garner, attorney with Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson, P.A.
The Floridians for Solar Choice coalition acknowledges that the utilities’ multi-million dollar misinformation campaign has succeeded in confusing voters and preventing Solar Choice from gaining a slot on the 2016 ballot. However, the coalition’s goal remains unchanged: to open the solar market in Florida and encourage the development of clean and affordable energy through smart solar policy. As petitions are valid for 24 months from the date of signing, the coalition continues to explore options to qualify for the 2018 ballot and Solar Choice volunteers and partner organizations continue to collect petitions around the state.
“Florida is ranked third for rooftop solar potential by the solar energy industry, and yet remains far behind other states in installed solar because of our utility monopolized environment,” said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice. “It is unfortunate that Florida continues to treat solar energy differently and continues to maintain barriers to free market growth of this energy source. This coalition and I will keep fighting to provide more choice to the citizens of this great state regarding their energy future.”
Although Florida’s is ranked third in the nation for rooftop solar potential by the Solar Energy Industries Association, there is a dearth of installed solar throughout the Sunshine State. The lack of extensive solar energy systems largely stems from regressive energy policies, many of which are supported by monopoly utilities wary of losing their captive customers in an open energy market.
“My experience on Florida’s Public Service Commission makes it clear that removing regressive energy policies in order to open and more-fully develop the solar market in Florida makes good sense both for Florida’s consumers and for our state’s economy,” said E. Leon Jacobs, Jr., legal counsel to the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association. “The utilities’ claims against the proposed Solar Choice amendment are simply not based in fact.”
Although the utility-backed campaign called Consumers for Smart Solar has described itself as a “diverse coalition of business, civic and faith leaders,” financial filings reveal they are entirely backed by utilities and their front groups. Electric utilities contributed more than half of the $5.9 million collected since last summer, and December’s filing are expected to demonstrate continued utility support.
“This misleading ballot amendment is bad for consumers, bad for the environment, and bad for Florida. That’s why we’re challenging it in court,” said Earthjustice attorney Bradley Marshall.
The affirmation of Solar Choice’s dedication to their goal and their strong opposition to the utility backed proposal are timely given the start of the 2016 legislative session tomorrow, and the coalition remains confident that the voice of the people who want more solar in the Sunshine State will be heard.
“The Floridians for Solar Choice coalition is stronger today than ever before and we remain unwavering in our focus to open the solar market in the Sunshine State,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Yes, the utilities have more money, but their positions are on the wrong side of this issue. Deception and unethical manipulation of Florida’s voters will not win in the end. We trust the Supreme Court will see through the monopoly utilities’ chicanery and deny the false petition from ballot access.”