It’s hard to forget that Election Day is rapidly approaching. In the midst of the brouhaha about the presidential election, it is easy to forget that there are state and local decisions at stake, too. One is Florida’s Amendment 1: “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice.”
If passed, Amendment 1 would allow utilities to slap rooftop solar users with new fees, including homeowners that would otherwise pay nothing for electricity.
Supporters of the amendment claim that it will stop an unfair practice, namely, that non-solar customers pay for the power lines and other infrastructure solar users use to sell electricity back to the grid. The solar industry and others argue that no such cost shifting occurs, as the owners of rooftop solar panels offset the need to build expensive new power plants. Solar supporters say the Amendment will harm the Florida solar industry because it will discourage new customers.
Those who follow clean energy news know that many utilities are opposed to the growth of distributed solar energy. Why? Because the utility industry makes its money by building more infrastructure and power plants. When customers switch to distributed generation sources and need the utility less, it threatens the livelihood of the utility industry.
In the case of Florida, a group called Consumers for Smart Solar has raised over $21 million for a campaign to support the Amendment. The top donors are energy companies. Floridians for Solar Choice, a pro-solar organization that has support from groups on both sides of the aisle, has raised about $2.1 million on a campaign to defeat the proposal.
News broke last week that Sal Nuzzo, policy director of the James Madison Institute — a think tank that receives support from the state’s utilities — called the amendment “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that coopts the positive language used by solar supporters and would “completely negate anything [pro-solar interests] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.” Opponents of the amendment called this is an example of the deceptive tactics by the utility industry.
Similar disagreements about the growth of distributed solar are happening in multiple states across the country. Another story this week highlights how community solar advocates in Detroit are facing regulatory hurdles and reluctance from utilities. Arizona’s utility long ago admitted to funding anti-solar groups, and no one’s happy about the latest solar pricing plan from regulators.
In other news, Volkswagen owners get some relief this week — a $15 billion settlement announced Tuesday will go toward remedying the impacts of the company’s emissions scandal.
The International Energy Agency announced that a record number of clean energy installations happened last year, overtaking fossil fuel-based sources for the first time.
Finally, the U.S. Navy has been preparing for the energy transition for quite some time. Julian Spector details how the Navy’s clean energy efforts are improving energy security and resiliency, resulting in a more capable service. It does pay to be a leader.
Steve Hargreaves and Courtney St. John write for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture. You can follow them at @shargrea and@CourtSaintJohn.