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 @ 9:33am

    Re: Floridian....

    When I first saw the proposed Amendment on sample ballot. I said to myself 'no way! no how! This is better handled by the legislative branch and doesn't need to be a constitutional amendment.' This sort of stuff appears in just about every regular FL election, efforts to amend the constitution. It's just too damn easy to amend so lots of BS gets proposed.

    I think this indicates the real reason the bill didn't pass -- not because the majority of Floridians saw through the doublespeak in the Amendment or did some degree of research to make an informed decision, but simply because they saw that an amendment to the Constitution was being floated that had nothing at all to do with what the Constitution should contain. And I have to say: well done!

    There's no need to check facts and waste time investigating every topic under the sun when you can do the simple check: "Does this proposal make sense as a change to the constitution?"

    And now, of course, as Karl noted, the fact that Big Energy was caught trying to adversely modify the Constitution has got the topic into public discussion.

    I hope other electorates practice the same "no nonsense" logic in the years to come :)

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