"Climate change may have been largely ignored during the presidential election but it will be on the ballot on 8 November, with Florida voters deciding on a measure backed by large utilities that could effectively snuff out the solar industry in the state.
The measure, known as amendment 1, has been criticized as “fundamentally dishonest” for superficially appearing to be pro-solar. However, renewable energy experts warn that it would remove the incentive for homeowners to get rooftop solar panels, devastating the solar industry in America’s sunshine state.
The amendment would change Florida’s constitution to give consumers the right to have solar panels installed. But it also states that the government should “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”.
A group called Consumers for Smart Solar, backed by more than $20m in campaign funding by Florida’s large energy utilities, has put forward the measure, ostensibly to protect Florida residents from rip-offs. But critics contend that the proposal would lead the way to solar panel owners facing fees or a reduced price for the excess energy they put back into the grid, known as net metering.
“The utilities have been fundamentally dishonest, their behavior is incredibly cynical,” said David Pomerantz, executive director of pro-renewables group Energy and Policy Institute. “It has confused quite a few voters and that was by design. The large electric utilities in Florida feel extraordinarily threatened by customer-owned solar. Instead of trying to adapt to it, they want to kill rooftop solar in the cradle.”
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