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 first sentence in the Amendment 1 ballot summary is completely unnecessary. Florida Statute §163.04 already gives Florida consumers an explicit right to install solar equipment on their property. The only purpose of the first sentence in Amendment 1 is to mislead voters into believing that Amendment 1 favors more ownership of rooftop solar power by Florida consumers. But as explained in detail below, the real goal of the amendment is exactly the opposite.
The first part of the second sentence in the Amendment 1 ballot summary is also completely unnecessary. The Florida Building Code and the National Electrical Code already establish rules and requirements for the safe installation and operation of rooftop solar power systems. And a variety of Florida laws are in place to protect Florida consumers against scams and ripoffs.
Amendment 1 adds nothing new. The only purpose of this language is to mislead voters into believing that Amendment 1 is primarily about consumer protection. But it really isn’t.
The first sentence and the first part of the second sentence in the Amendment 1 ballot summary are nothing more than red herrings. Amendment 1 has only one goal: Reduce the financial attractiveness of buying a rooftop solar power system.
What the investor-owned electric utility industry really wants is hidden. The second part of the second sentence in the ballot summary is the language the electric utility industry really wants to turn into law. But if you don’t know what “net metering” is, or understand the strategy that the investor-owned electric utility industry has developed to fight the spread of rooftop solar power, you would have no idea how the seemingly pro-consumer language in Amentment 1 can help the electric utility industry kill rooftop solar power in Florida.
This language, buried at the end of the ballot summary, says, “…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.”
We’ll call this the “unfair subsidy” language part of the proposed amendment. While this language certainly sounds consumer friendly, it isn’t. The real goal of the “unfair subsidy” language is to provide legal support for electric utilities to make rooftop solar power systems less financially attractive to consumers. The next section below explains how this would happen.
Electric utilities don’t have a problem with solar power, as long as they own the solar panels. Electric utilities are installing more solar power capacity than consumers, commercial businesses and governments combined by a wide margin. They just don’t want consumers to own rooftop solar power systems on their homes.
Investor-owned electric utilities see rooftop solar power systems as competition.
Electric utility companies want to slow the rapid growth in the number of rooftop solar power systems in Florida by reducing the financial attractiveness of buying a rooftop solar power system. The goal of the “unfair subsidy” language in Amendment 1 is to provide a legal argument for changing the way rooftop solar power system owners are billed by electric utility companies. If Amendment 1 passes, Florida’s electric utilities will propose changes to utility customer billing that reduce the financial attractiveness of buying a rooftop solar power system.
Why electric utilities don’t like consumer-owned rooftop solar power. Rooftop solar power system owners use less utility-generated electricity. The investor-owned electric utilities that are financing the Amendment 1 ballot initiative, Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric, don’t like rooftop solar power because it reduces their revenues. The amount of profit an investor-owned utility can earn is regulated by the state, so these utility companies can only earn greater profits by selling more electricity.
The number of electric utility customers in Florida with rooftop solar power systems today is a tiny fraction (less than 1%) of the total number of electric utility customers.
Even so, the investor-owned utility industry has looked at other industries decimated by advances in technology—like AT&T’s landline telephone and pay-phone businesses—and they are afraid that widespread adoption of rooftop solar power could have a similar negative impact on their revenues and profits. So they are fighting hard and spending millions of dollars to slow down rooftop solar growth now. Ask yourself:
Why would Florida’s big investor-owned electric utility companies spend over $20 million to ensure the rights of their customers to buy less electricity?
Amendment 1 is backed by Florida’s investor-owned electric utility companies. Amendment 1, if passed, will give the electric utility industry a legal basis to slow the growth of rooftop solar power in Florida.
More rooftop solar means a better future for all Florida consumers. More rooftop solar power systems will provide benefits to all Florida consumers:
- Cleaner air because rooftop solar power reduces fossil fuel powerplant air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.
- Lower fuel adjustment charges during the summer air conditioning season because rooftop solar power systems reduce peak electricity demand.
- Delays the need to build additional fossil fuel or nuclear powerplants as Florida’s population increases, the costs of which are passed along to all utility customers.
On Wednesday, November 2, 2016, the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association and Floridians for Solar Choice, Inc. filed a Motion for Relief in the Supreme Court of Florida. The Motion seeks relief from the court’s order that allowed the Amendment 1 language on the November election ballot or, alternatively, to reopen the case previously decided by the court.
The Motion argues that Consumers for Smart Solar, Inc., the amendment’s proponents, “affirmatively withheld relevant and material information as to the objective and intended purpose of the amendment, and thereby misled [the] Court (and is now misleading the public) as to the adequacy of the ballot title and summary presented to the voters.” The affirmative deception was uncovered and publicized by the Miami Herald on October 18, 2016, in an article titled “Insider reveals deceptive strategy behind Florida’s solar amendment.”
The Miami Herald story reported that Amendment 1’s sponsors “attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.” The article referenced an October 2, 2016 audio recording of a speech by Sal Nuzzo of the James Madison Institute, at the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. The James Madison Institute, according to Mr. Nuzzo, partnered with Consumers for Smart Solar and the electric utility industry to research and develop a constitutional ballot initiative that would appear favorable for solar power, but would in reality negate pro solar efforts of solar power proponents.
Have questions about Amendment 1? Here are the questions we are most often asked. Click on a question to read the answer. Click again to hide the answer. If you don’t see your question answered here, please send us an email with your question and we’ll get back to you with an answer. We try to answer all questions within 24 hours.
Miami Herald, November 8, 2016
Florida voters say no to misleading solar amendment
… Entitled — “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” the carefully crafted proposal appeared poised for easy passage a month ago, as the utility-backed political committee spent the summer promoting the amendment as protecting consumers and encouraging solar. Their promotional materials did not include an explanation that the amendment would open the door to new fees and costs to rooftop solar users.
Solar industry advocates argued that instead of expanding rooftop solar generation, the amendment had the potential to make it less economically viable and limit its expansion but, after using up their funds on their petition drive, they had no budget for a “vote no” campaign.
By mid-October, the utility-backed campaign was forced onto the defensive with the surprise arrival of a leaked audio recording. Sal Nuzzo, policy director of the James Madison Institute, which was a supporter of Amendment 1, was recorded conceding that the utilities created the amendment as an act of “political jiu-jitsu” by shrouding it as a pro-solar proposal that would instead “negate” the efforts of solar advocates.
In the audio obtained by the Herald/Times, Nuzzo told an audience of conservative activists in Nashville on Oct. 2 that the amendment was “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they [pro-solar interests] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road …“
The New York Times, October 27, 2016
Measure in Florida That Claims to Back Solar Power May Discourage It
Florida’s biggest electric utility companies are backing a proposed constitutional amendment that, the campaign says, “promotes solar in the Sunshine State.” Not so: If Florida voters approve the ballot measure, it could pave the way for utilities to raise fees on solar customers and cast a heavy cloud over the future of rooftop solar energy in Florida.
Utilities and their allies have spent more than $20 million on the campaign, including inescapable broadcast ads and mass direct mailings. While there is no reliable polling on the measure, unscientific surveys suggest that the amendment can win. Daniel Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, said, “It has a decent shot at passing — because the language is deceptive…“
Miami Herald, October 18, 2016
Insider reveals deceptive strategy behind Florida’s solar amendment
The policy director of a think tank hired by Florida’s largest electric utilities admitted at a conference this month what opponents have claimed for months: The industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment…
Miami Herald, October 21, 2016
From Novelist Carl Hiassen’s Blog:
Amendment 1 “wolf in sheep’s clothing“
Let the scum shine.
The solar-power amendment on Florida’s ballot is a slick, oily fraud. Promoted as a way to expand solar energy and protect residents who want it, Amendment 1 would do just the opposite.
All you need to know is who’s bankrolling the massive advertising campaign: Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co., Gulf Power, and a few nonprofits funded heavily by Exxon Mobil and a pair of right-wing billionaire brothers named Koch…
Rolling Stone, February 11, 2016
The Koch Brothers’ Dirty War on Solar Power
… The solar industry in Florida has been boxed out by investor-owned utilities (IOUs) that reap massive profits from natural gas and coal. These IOUs wield outsize political power in the state capital of Tallahassee, and flex it to protect their absolute monopoly on electricity sales. “We live in the Stone Age in regard to renewable power,” says state Rep. Dwight Dudley, the ranking Democrat on the energy subcommittee in the Florida House. “The power companies hold sway here, and the consumers are at their mercy…”
Florida Today, October 21, 2016
Solar boat showcased during anti-Amendment 1 event
Forbes, October 16, 2016
How Florida Residents May Lose The Battle For Attainable Solar Energy
Miami Herald, November 2, 2016
Solar advocates file suit to block “misleading” Amendment 1
Miami Herald, October 21, 2016
The tale of one confused Amendment 1 voter: Can I change it?
Miami Herald, October 20, 2016
Leaked audio tape exposes duplicity behind solar amendment
Miami Herald, June 2, 2016
Vote No on misleading Amendment 1 on ballot
Orlando Sentinel, October 27, 2016
Supporters’ ruse unravels. Vote no on Amendment 1: Endorsements 2016
Orlando Sentinel, October 20, 2016
Vote no on Amendment 1: Reject Florida utilities’ shameful solar campaign
Orlando Sentinel, October 19, 2016
Amendment 1: Don’t let utilities stunt sun power’s growth in Florida
Orlando Sentinel, October 10, 2016
Solar amendment more about money than energy
Pensacola News-Journal, October 15, 2016
Editorial: Amendment 1 is a sham
PR Watch, September 29, 2015
Koch Brothers Backing Misleading Anti-Solar Campaign in Florida
Sun Sentinel, October 16, 2016
Vote “NO” on shady, not smart, solar amendment
Tallahassee Democrat, June 9, 2016
Support solar? Vote “no” on Amendment 1
Tallahassee Democrat, October 15, 2016
Amendment 1 could burn solar firms, customers
Tampa Bay Times, October 14, 2016
Times recommends: Vote no on anti-solar Amendment 1