Deceiving voters is a tricky business. And the recent declaration by a political operative in Florida that his side was carrying out "political jiu-jitsu" to choke out rooftop solar development in Florida was certainly eye-opening for voters.
But the real shame in the campaign to kill rooftop solar in Florida isn't so much the deceptive tactics -- though I hope that that will be the downfall of Amendment 1 -- it's the potential lost opportunity for jobs, economic advancement and lower bills across every Florida county.
Thanks in part to damage that's already been done by utilities, Florida, the Sunshine State, uses solar for less than one percent solar of its electric power. Florida places 18th this year behind less populated states such as Maryland, South Carolina and Utah in solar installed. This amendment could add to the state's solar woes by opening the door to new fees and other barriers to solar.
A laundry list of national groups representing big energy and some of the in-state utilities have combined to spend more than $25 million to advance a ballot initiative purported to support solar. However, the "yes on solar" amendment effectively says to Florida residents, no you can't have solar.
Luckily, the race is tightening, and voters can still reverse the course of this malevolent amendment. In an act of panic, the utilities are dumping $3.5 million more dollars to keep the illusion alive that their amendment is good for solar. Must be nice to have that kind of money literally at your disposal. But Floridians now know better.
It took our industry 40 years to put up the first million solar installations across the U.S., but in only two years, we will hit 2 million. Solar jobs will double over the next four years to 420,000, solar share of the national electricity generation pie will triple and annual solar investment will eclipse $30 billion. It's a true bright spot in our economy. But not for Florida.
Today, there are dozens of companies ready to move into the state and create jobs and spur the economy. Amendment 1 would encourage these entrepreneurs to set up in Georgia, the Carolinas, or Alabama or Mississippi instead.
Utilities argue that when one neighbor goes solar, it raises everyone else's bills. Not so. Study after study, from the Brookings Institution to Environment America, looking at states from Maine to Arizona, have found that when you add up the benefits and costs of rooftop solar, all consumers benefit. Put simply, solar allows consumers more freedom of choice and the ability to save money.
Rooftop solar, long the victim of tricky policy ploys by monopoly utilities, can come of age in the state if voters defeat Amendment 1 and state policymakers act on overwhelming public sentiment in favor of more solar. To deliver for Floridians, the state must also remove barriers to solar adoption, such as the unique policy that prevents leasing of panels, the dominant model of rooftop solar investment across much of America, but banned in Florida.
Benefits from solar abound. With more solar, the state can spend less on expensive new power plants. New rooftop solar reduces strain on the power grid and delivers cleaner air and water. New jobs, from installers and electricians to site developers and salespeople, will spring up across the state. And Florida, already home to some of the nation's greatest universities and the nationally-renowned Florida Solar Energy Center, can join leading states that are at the forefront of this high-tech movement.
It's time for Floridians to turn the tables on those out to trick them. It's easy enough to do with a single vote. Reject this damaging campaign. Reject the restraint on freedoms that leaves Floridians even more at the mercy of monopoly utilities. Reject utility executive dreams of keeping competition away and leaving tens of thousands of jobs at the border.
Do the right thing for Florida: vote NO on Amendment 1.