In this tense election season, some of the important ballot measures happening in states and cities nationwide might not have made it onto your radar, but there are some important ones to watch. One of the biggest fights is taking place in Florida, where anti-solar utilities have proposed a very tricky and confusing measure called Amendment 1, which appears to be pro-solar but would actually make solar power more expensive and harder for the average person to install on their home or business.
Florida’s utility companies are spending tens of millions of dollars backing this amendment saying it’ll make solar more prevalent, but a huge and diverse coalition of groups - from environmental organizations like Sierra Club to consumer groups to solar industry trade associations ― are calling the industry’s bluff. The Emmy-award winning climate series Years of Living Dangerously chronicled this drama in their season premiere on the National Geographic channel this week ― click here to watch a behind the scenes video about the Florida ballot fight.
In a dramatic turn of events, leaked recordings exposed the devious plot. The New York Times and Miami Herald have uncovered some of the shady dealings behind the scenes by the state’s utility companies:
If Florida voters approve the ballot measure, it could pave the way for utilities to raise fees on solar customers and cast a heavy cloud over the future of rooftop solar energy in Florida ... The hidden intent of the proposal was not widely understood until The Miami Herald obtained audio of an expert at a conservative Florida think tank affiliated with one of the utilities. In the audio, which the Herald obtained from the Center for Media and Democracy, an investigative group, the expert praised what he called the “incredibly savvy maneuver” of using the “language of promoting solar” to gain support for the measure. He called it “political jiu-jitsu.”
I’ve listened to the leaked recordings, and they’re jaw-dropping ― the expert essentially brags about how the utilities are using the overwhelming popularity of solar to try and trick people into voting for an anti-solar amendment to the state’s constitution. It’s true ― approval of Amendment 1 would make solar power more expensive, drive the solar industry away from Florida, and hurt consumers by denying them a cost-effective way to lower energy bills and take action on climate disruption. More than 50 small and large solar companies are fighting the amendment, saying it will allow these large monopoly utilities to limit customer-owned solar.
The Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel and numerous other newspapers around the state have called for a “no” vote ― with the Herald calling the amendment “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” For more on all the unfolding drama and why this is such a bad deal, you can listen here to my recent interview about this tricky business on the United States of Solar podcast.
Floridians should vote no on Amendment 1 because it’s only good for the big utilities who have poured more than $21 million into supporting it. Florida can and should be a leader in solar power ― don’t let the utilities draw the shades on solar power in the Sunshine State.