As the Florida legislators consider a bill reportedly written by Florida Power & Light that could reduce or eliminate incentives for installing rooftop solar. It seems this is part of a large offensive by commercial electric utilities.
A similar effort is under way in California, affecting 1.3 million rooftop solar facilities and the current net metering rules.
Net metering allows residents and businesses that generate their own solar power to sell any excess power they generate back to the utility at a market rate. This produces a good return on investment in addition to reducing the demand on the local electric grid.
The utilities’ argument, which is actually contained in the Florida bill, is that all of these rooftop solar units are operating at the expense of other electric customers. The solar energy disputes that claim, citing studies that concluded the effect of rooftop solar is minimal.
To “fix” this situation, they have proposed asking utility regulators to reduce the payback for extra solar power and to even levy a so-called “grid-maintenance charge” for not using the grid as much as everyone else.
In a column in today’s New York Times, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appropriately terms these proposals a “solar tax.”
If approved, the measure would affect more than 100,000 rooftop solar owners in Florida.
This is not a brand new effort.
The electric utilities tried to sneak this proposal into the Florida Constitution in 2016 by fooling voters into believing it would give them the right to install solar panels even though there was no restriction on solar panel construction at the time.
The deception worked. The proposal received a narrow majority of the vote, but not the 60 percent required for approval.
Ironically, the 60 percent threshold was added to thwart grassroots initiatives that legislators didn’t’ like, not corporate initiatives that they typically favor.