An investigation carried out by Floodlight and the Miami Herald has found that the leading energy company in the U.S. is trying to influence energy policies in its favor, hurting the rooftop solar industry in Florida. The investigation says Florida Power & Light, the largest energy company in the country, is pushing policies that will overturn the current rooftop solar power reward program.
If the company is successful, the current metering program where homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar power can sell unused power back to the grid would be scrapped. In turn, large solar power companies like Florida Power & Light (FPL) would have sole control of the market.
Emails obtained by the investigators show that FPL sent specific legislation text to state senator Jennifer Bradley. Just two days after the email was sent, FPL’s parent company NextEra Energy donated $10,000 to senator Jennifer’s political committee. One month later, the senator filed a bill identical to one proposed by FPL but it was introduced to the house by a different lawmaker.
“This is a tired tactic that utilities have used to maintain their monopoly grip on electricity markets,” said Will Giese, southeast regional director for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Net metering is a popular program that gives people the right to choose the energy that works for them, provides benefits to all ratepayers and creates thousands of energy jobs across Florida.”
Although only 1% of Florida electricity consumers currently sell their power back to the grid, the policy has been instrumental in enticing people to install solar panels. Experts say that rooftop solar in Florida could grow at the rate of 39% per year until the year 2025 if the current metering program is upheld.
The potential that the program creates in empowering people to generate their own power threatens big companies like FPL. This could explain the reasoning behind the push to have the policy changed. However, experts say that the push may not go so far if legislators do their work well.
“Companies do not pass legislation,” said Katie Chiles Ottenweller, south-east director for Vote Solar. “Legislators pass legislation. I’m hopeful this is a conversation starter but at the same time, it’s really hard to have a conversation when you have a gun to your head. The bill as it is written will decimate this industry.”
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