Amendment 1 will grow solar the right way in Florida
This op-ed originally appeared in the Orlando Sun-Sentinel on October 24, 2016
Should the right of every Floridian to generate his or her own solar electricity be protected? Should solar energy companies have to abide by the same consumer protection rules that all other energy providers must follow? Should those who don't choose solar be protected from having to pay higher electric bills to subsidize someone else's decision to go solar?
If you answered "yes" to these questions, then you should vote Yes on Amendment 1, because that is precisely what Amendment 1 does.
Here is the actual ballot language of Amendment 1:
BALLOT TITLE: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
BALLOT SUMMARY: This amendment establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.
The real question is why would anyone oppose Amendment 1?
It's hard to tell, because those bankrolling the campaign against Amendment 1 refuse to disclose their donors. In fact, 90 percent of their funding comes from an out-of-state special interest group that does not disclose its donors. But it is widely believed this funding comes from out-of-state solar companies who want to be exempt from consumer protection rules, and want their business model to be subsidized by non-solar customers.
If you want to see what will happen to Florida if they get their way, just google "Arizona solar fraud." We need Amendment 1 in order to protect consumers, particularly our seniors, from scams, rip-offs and long-term contract traps that have victimized so many people in Arizona and other states that have let down their guard.
We're not the only ones who are concerned about the need for consumer protection.
The Florida NAACP, The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and National Congress of Black Women all support Amendment 1, because it helps ensure that electric customers who don't choose solar are not forced to subsidize the solar choices of others.
In a recent letter to the Federal Trade Commission, the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen said, "State utility regulatory commissions do not have jurisdiction over the solar leasing industry in the same way they do over traditional utilities, a state of affairs that leaves consumers with inadequate protections. Unfortunately, the solar leasing industry standard contract features mandatory arbitration clauses, denying consumers access to U.S. courts in the event of a dispute."
Thankfully, some states where customers have been victimized due to lax consumer protections of solar customers are taking steps to protect consumers.
Florida deserves a holistic approach to solar that puts the interests of Florida consumers, not out-of-state solar companies, first. That's what Amendment 1 provides.
Vote Yes on Amendment 1.
Dick Batchelor, co-chairman of Consumers for Smart Solar, is a former chairman of the Florida House Energy Committee and former chairman of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission.