For many years, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners has strongly supported pro-solar energy policies and legislation at the state and federal levels.
This pro-solar position is why the Commission unanimously passed a resolution at its last meeting that opposes Amendment 1, which is on the Florida Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Amendment 1 – with the title “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding State Energy Choice” – deceptively has been touted as pro solar. In reality, the amendment was conceived and is backed by big utility companies that are spending millions on it in order to strengthen their monopoly on power. If it passes, which requires at least 60 percent of the vote, it would lock into the Florida Constitution the utility companies’ already existing control of solar power production.
Passage of this amendment would stop efforts to deregulate the solar energy market and allow third-party sales of solar energy created by individuals and businesses.
“It is kind of an atrocity to me that we could get an issue on the ballot that is so deceptive for such a transparent reason,” Commissioner David Rice said during the Oct. 19 BOCC meeting.
The Sunshine State, with its average of 265 sunny days, ranks third in the nation in solar potential. But renewable power accounts for only 2.3 percent of Florida’s energy generation, the fourth lowest in the country.
Out of 9 million energy customers, Florida has only 12,000 or so rooftop solar systems (and fewer than 100 in the Florida Keys). By comparison, New Jersey has more than 40,000 solar rooftop systems, despite having half the population of Florida and fewer sunny days.
For Monroe County, increasing solar-generated electricity is a key strategy for its Climate Action Plan, which includes reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent below 2010 levels by 2050.
In August’s primary election, voters of Florida passed Amendment 4, which provides tax breaks to make it less costly for residential and commercial property owners to install solar panels or other renewable energy equipment. This begins in 2018 and lasts for 20 years. The Monroe County BOCC unanimously approved a resolution supporting Amendment 4.
For Amendment 1, Mayor Heather Carruthers and Commissioner Sylvia Murphy both said at the Commission meeting: “Vote No on No. 1 in November.”
More than 75 consumer advocacy groups across the spectrum of political ideology are in opposition to Amendment 1. They include: Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Conservatives for Energy Freedom, Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida, the American Solar Energy Society, the United States Green Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Florida.