FPL Fears Democracy More Than Solar Energy Competition

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Those who are tasked with upholding the monopoly status of FPL have devised an ingenious strategy to derail a popular ballot initiative by Floridians for Solar Choice to expand solar in the state of Florida that has been gaining traction. They have created a group called Consumers for Smart Solar that is confusing voters by introducing its own watered-down petition.

What does their petition advocate? For the Florida constitution to give Floridians the right to own solar panels. That sounds awesome at first, except for one thing: we already have that right. That’s it. Signing this petition would reiterate a right citizens already have and would win nothing for climate action advocates, liberty-minded voters, or taxpayers.

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FPL generates most of its power from natural gas (68%), followed by nuclear power (23%). Solar makes up less than 1/10th of 1%.

Why is this petition being circulated? Simple. It is an attempt to derail the honest efforts of Floridians for Solar Choice which seeks to allow homeowners and businesses to sell power they generate (up to) to each other. By creating confusion and presenting a false alternative, FPL hopes to split the votes of Floridians committed to clean and dependable energy sources. At the same time, this tactic makes the job of volunteer canvassers even harder. On many occasions, canvassers will start their pitch by asking a prospective supporter if they have “already signed the solar petition?” This bogus petition will deceive voters into thinking that they have already signed the legitimate petition. These are classic astroturfing tactics; the sole purpose is to deceive the Floridian electorate.

Of course, the fact that FPL has to resort to this desperate attempt to deceive the public shows how afraid they are of allowing any competition to get a piece of their business. When it comes to the economics and the science, there are no doubts, solar power is superior to natural gas. We should also be careful of observing this controversy through tunnel vision. This is simply another symptom of a system overrun by money in politics. FPL is attempting to seize on this opportunity to cement its monopoly into the Florida constitution. Florida is one of only four states that prohibit the sale of energy by any source outside of a utility.

Other Florida cities like Gainesville experimented with pioneering methods like generous feed-in tariffs. Modeled after successful programs in Germany, the city was one of the first in the country to introduce measures that guaranteed fixed rates in exchange for the production of power, quickly reaching maximum capacity and becoming a world leader in solar. Homeowners who invested in rooftop installations were able to sell power back to the utility grid. Many did, which proved to be a quick way to create new jobs in contracting, engineering, and site prep, allowing consumers to take the front seat in expanding the adoption of renewables. Local businesses also rely on the program to keep their doors open and grow the industry.

There are numerous tax benefits and incentives encouraging homeowners and business owners to adopt solar technology. A homeowner will get a 30% tax credit from the federal government and business owners will get a 30% tax credit plus accelerated depreciation. Many utilities offer additional incentives to go solar.

Meanwhile, Florida – sunnier and more populated than any other southeastern state – installed fewer solar panels over the past three years than Georgia installed in 2013 alone, all while solar technology becomes significantly less expensive.

Florida’s population is growing, and it’s already one of the largest electricity markets in the U.S. Groups from across the political spectrum who recognize the need to begin innovating the energy mix have shown support for the Solar Choice initiative. They believe the energy grid should be decentralized, ending the monopoly on energy production and allowing consumers to freely produce and trade energy. Mandating that power can only be purchased and sold through primary utilities, as the other petition aims to do, doesn’t include the incentives that will help solar spread.

The Floridians for Solar Choice petition has so far gotten 200,000+ signatures but still has a steep goal to achieve the 683,149 required to qualify for placement on the ballot. Those interested in supporting the legitimate initiative can visit the Floridians for Solar Choice website.

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