Last week, the Florida utility-backed anti-solar initiative officially launched their campaign to block solar leasing in the sunshine state with the confusing name, “Yes on 1 for the sun.” The utility-backed group running the initiative campaign, called the “Consumers for Smart Solar” has been funded by nearly $7 million in contributions from the investor-owned utilities and fossil fuel front groups to date.
Energy & Policy Institute previously revealed that Consumers for Smart Solar is funded by utilities and front groups seeking to prevent changes to state law that would open the solar market in Florida and specifically allow third party solar leases. Third party solar accounted for 72 precent of residential solar installed across the country in 2014.
Instead, the utility-backed ballot initiative would continue to restrict the solar market in Florida by writing into the state constitution that homeowners and businesses cannot use third party solar leases. Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone writes:
Key policies that have spurred a rooftop solar revolution elsewhere in America are absent or actually illegal in Florida. Unlike the majority of states, even Texas, Florida has no mandate to generate any portion of its electricity from renewable power. Worse, the state's restrictive monopoly utility law forbids anyone but the power companies from buying and selling electricity. Landlords cannot sell power from solar panels to tenants. Popular solar leasing programs like those offered by SolarCity and Sunrun are outlawed.
In the battle between the utilities and pro-clean energy advocates in Florida, the utility-backed Consumers for Smart Solar drove up the cost of petition signatures in Florida, rendering a pro-solar ballot initiative (spearheaded by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy) unable to raise enough funds to overcome the vast resources of the monopoly utility companies. The pro-solar initiative called "Floridians for Solar Choice" would have opened the market and removed restrictions on solar leasing. Rolling Stone reported, “utilities crushed the [pro-solar] Solar Choice campaign by spending it into submission. Qualifying an amendment for the ballot in Florida is onerous and expensive under the best of circumstances.”
The Consumers for Smart Solar campaign also worked to confuse petition-signers by using the same language as the real pro-solar campaign. While gathering petition signatures, the utility-backed initiative would talk about “solar choice,” mirroring the name of the pro-solar ballot initiative, Floridians for Solar Choice.
Now, with the utilities launching their ballot initiative as the “Yes on 1 for the sun” campaign, the misinformation continues. George Orwell noted in his essay, “Politics and the English Language,” that political speech serves to distort reality, saying “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… the great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”
The utility-backed ballot initiative is certainly insincere about it’s intentions - instead of “for the sun” the utilities are working to confuse voters and cement public policy that squashes the free market and eliminates competition coming from the distributed solar industry.
Perhaps Florida should change it’s moniker from the “Sunshine State” to the “Investor-owned Utility State”, where citizens and businesses are simply not allowed to use the free market to generate their own power, because the monopoly utilities have enough funding and political power to keep it that way.