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    Other Voices l Customer-owned solar under attack in Florida


    January 24, 2022 - Maxine Connor and Rosemary Nilles

     

      Customer-owned rooftop solar is a popular and growing source of clean energy in the Sunshine State, and strongly supported by the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVFL) and its member groups, including LWV Citrus.

      However, customer-owned solar is under attack in Florida, and new bills moving through the legislature could end the current system of "net metering."

      What is net metering?

      Solar owners don't always use all the electricity they generate, especially in sunny Florida. Net metering is a program established under Florida Administrative Code that lets customers send their excess solar electricity back to the grid for use by other customers. Under net metering, customers with solar systems receive full, fair retail credit from their public utility for the excess electricity they return. Net metering is not a subsidy! If no excess electricity is returned, the customer receives no credit. About 90,000 homes and businesses, less than 1 percent of Florida customers, use net metering.

      How does rooftop solar benefit Floridians?

      Florida's growing solar industry benefits all citizens, not just those who invest in solar. Rooftop solar lowers costs for all electric customers by making the electric grid more efficient and reducing the load during peak demand times. It produces clean energy with no air pollution or health impacts and lowers our carbon footprint by reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Rooftop solar has created thousands of well-paying jobs. It saves taxpayer dollars by reducing electric bills on schools and government buildings with solar.

      How would new legislation impact net metering?

      There are two companion bills, SB 1024 and HB 741, in the Florida legislative session that began Jan. 11. SB 1024, now called "Renewable Energy Generation," is moving rapidly. It will revamp net metering by reducing the amount that utilities must credit back to the bills of customers who return excess electricity to the grid. SB 1024 will allow utilities to impose new fees on solar customers and reduce the time for customers to recoup the expense of solar installation. The bill was amended to weaken Florida's current solar rights law (F.S. 163.04) by limiting locations of solar panels.

      The passage of these bills could decimate Florida's growing rooftop solar industry and deal a colossal blow to the expansion of clean energy in Florida. It could discourage further investment in solar, causing the loss of thousands of solar-related jobs. Some larger solar contractors have indicated that they will leave Florida if this legislation passes. Customers who already own solar could be stranded for maintenance help.

      Why change current solar net metering policy?

      The electric utility industry contends that customers who own solar and use net metering are not paying their fair share of grid costs. Yet numerous studies have shown that the "cost shift" argument is wrong and that customers who own solar actually contribute more than they are credited for. https://tinyurl.com/4h9dnm2h Customer-owned solar systems produce less than 1 percent of electricity in Florida and have almost no impact on utility finances. https://tinyurl.com/59w2vpmb Utilities tried unsuccessfully to attack net metering through federal and state agencies. Now they are lobbying our legislators to codify these changes into Florida law.

      What is the League's position?

      LWVFL strongly opposes SB 1024 and HB 741. These bills will undermine net metering and make rooftop solar less affordable for current and prospective customers. The bills would disincentivize clean energy while costing jobs.

      Floridians strongly favor consumer rights and solar. Reducing net metering would strike a blow to both at the same time.

      All Floridians benefit from solar. Net metering fairly credits solar customers for the electricity they return to the grid and should be maintained for the common good.

      Contact your legislators with your views: Senate President Wilton Simpson, 850-487-5010, simpson.wilton.web@flsenate.gov. Rep. Ralph Massullo, 850-717-5034, Ralph.Massullo@myfloridahouse.gov.

      If you want to oppose these bills, use this link: https://tinyurl.com/2p8bx7vm

      Track the progress of these bills here: https://tinyurl.com/2p8h8u3c

      LWVFL is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government, working to increase understanding of major policy issues, and advocating for legislation and policies for the public good. Find us at www.lwvfl.org or www.lwvcitrus.org.

      Maxine Connor is Co-chair of LWVFL's Clean Energy Committee, and Natural Resources Chair of LWVCC. Rosemary Nilles is Legislative Lead and Board member of LWVCC.

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