Florida Voters Vote Down Bill Aimed At Hamstringing Solar Competition

from the when-astroturf-backfires dept

In an election without many net positives for people that care about technology issues, one small glimmer of good news actually came out of Florida last week. As we've been noting, utility companies have been going to some incredibly sleazy lengths to fight back against the rise of solar competition, including the creation of entirely bogus "consumer groups" like Consumers For Smart Solar. Groups like this profess to support solar power, yet have spent the lion's share of their utility funding to hamstring solar efforts in a state that could benefit immeasurably from the transition.

Fake consumer groups that try to muddy the discourse waters and convince the public to support policies that run contrary to their best interests are nothing new, and have been a cornerstone of telecom lobbying for years. But in Florida, incumbent utilities ran into some trouble recently when one of the think tankers they employed accidentally publicly admitted the group was a sham designed to push Amendment 1. Amendment 1 professed to open up Florida's solar market to competition, but in reality would have done the exact opposite by saddling solar power efforts with intentionally crippling regulation.

It's believed that Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co. collectively paid around $20.2 million to try and get Amendment 1 passed. Another $6 million was spent on proxy groups tied to utilities that argued for the Amendment. And yet somehow, in an electoral climate where voting against your best self interests is the new sexy, Florida voters defeated the proposal by a narrow margin.

Of course Florida utilities won't be deterred, and are looking to impose all manner of other new restrictions on solar providers so they won't have to compete, and won't need to pay solar-powered homes that are contributing power back to the grid. But as local Florida news outlets have noted these efforts may have had the reverse impact than intended, with solar's popularity surging in the wake of these utilities' plans to try and fight an obvious evolutionary path:
"I don’t think this was their intent, but what the utilities did with Amendment 1 was bring the discussion of solar energy development in Florida to the forefront,” said Delp, who is working with a company building a 30-megawatt private solar farm in Leesburg. “It’s now a kitchen table issue. There is awareness that there is a lack of solar in Florida and that we lag behind so many other states."
Obviously this isn't the end of the conversation. While Miami Beach is spending $400 million to raise their roads in an attempt to buy itself 40 years in the face of rising sea levels, we just elected a President that believes climate change is a Chinese-manufactured hoax. That said, it's at least marginally entertaining that attempts to hamstring solar energy competition in Florida failed largely because the incumbent utilities got too cocky.

Filed Under: florida, lobbyists, solar

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 5:53am


    If "your best interests" include the survival of your grandchildren, your country, and your planet, then yes, lots of people voted against those. We're firmly on a track to +2C by 2100 without immediate coordinated global action to reduce emissions and develop alternative energy.

    A +2C future means massive droughts, famines, coastal inundation, wars over water and food, and refugee problems that make what we face today look trivial. Hundreds of millions of people will die, either slowly (starvation) or quickly (conflict, floods, superstorms). Hundreds of millions more will have substantially shortened lifespans due to the environmental stress, economic disruption, displacement, and higher seasonal temperatures.

    And if those efforts cease entirely -- which now seems likely given that US leadership will be withdrawn -- then we won't hit +2C. We'll go right past it on the way to +4C.

    A +4C future means that all of our arguments about surveillance and racism and policing and health care and everything else become moot. At +4C, there's no such thing as "civilization" any more. Most of the planet's population will die. A few might scrape by -- for a while. But only for a while: there is a substantial probability that somewhere around +4C, positive feedback really kicks in and the pace of warming accelerates. That is not a survivable event.

    If this happens, our grandchildren might live to see it -- optimistically presuming they survive the events en route. But they won't live much longer.

    Now I'm sure some of you want to argue that it's not happening, that it's a hoax, whatever. Okay. Fine. I hold one degree in science, another in engineering, and most of a third in applied math. I've been reading climatology texts and papers for over a decade. If you haven't got any background and you haven't done the homework -- as in "reading the original texts, research papers and reports": kindly shut up, because you haven't got the faintest idea what you're talking about.

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