A bill recently introduced to the Florida legislature could hamper rooftop solar efforts in the state. Republican Senator Jennifer Bradley introduced the bill, which proposed reducing solar reimbursement rates by up to 75%, among other changes.
Why the change? Some critics point out lobbying by Florida Power & Light. According to CNN, “A draft version of the bill Bradley introduced was delivered to her by a Florida Power & Light lobbyist on October 18.” Further, Women Building the Future, a political group associated with Bradley, received a $10,000 donation two days later from NextEra Energy, Florida Power & Light’s parent company. However, Bradley claims her real reason for supporting the legislation is because the solar industry is now “mature, with many competitors, large publicly traded companies, and substantially reduced prices.”
Those opposing the legislation argue it will crush Florida’s solar power uptake. The incentives offered to solar power users, such as payback for the power saved, have encouraged a surge in solar use. If the new bill passes, solar uptake could decline drastically.
According to solar industry insiders, the bill could make Florida one of the least attractive states for residential solar consumers. On the other hand, utility power suppliers will gain substantially from the move. “It would mean that we would have to close our business here in the state of Florida and pivot to another state,” said Stephanie Provost, chief marketing officer for Vision Solar, while addressing lawmakers at a recent committee hearing.
Currently, Florida solar users are reimbursed at a rate similar to other states. Reimbursement comes in the form of a credit on their monthly bills. While Florida has enjoyed this incentive for some time, it still trails behind other states in solar uptake. Today, only about 90,000 Florida homes run on solar power, representing just 1% of all electric consumers in the state. Florida also ranks 21st in the country in terms of solar residential systems per capita.
Steve Rutherford, founder of Tampa Bay Solar, worries about how this legislation could impact his livelihood. “It’s going to be a crusher for the solar industry,” Rutherford told CNN. “For 90% of the people that work for me, this will be a significant blow for their pocketbooks.”
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