2016 was a big year in politics. While many would describe as bad or good, it was a time that will likely define and influence the next decade. However, the presidency wasn’t the only thing on the ballot.
For those of you who went to Florida voting booths last November, you may have noticed that there were more than a few choices involving amendments to Florida’s Constitution. One was a decision regarding what was called Amendment 1, which failed to pass.
The Florida Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use Initiative, otherwise known as Amendment 1, was defeated after election-day, failing to meet the 60% supermajority vote required for it to pass. The Initiative promised to add a section to the Florida constitution, protecting residents right to obtain and produce solar energy/solar energy equipment. It also would allow state and local governments the ability to prevent non-solar-producing residents from being required to subsidize solar production.
This received mixed reception on election day. Opponents argued that the language would prevent the sale of excess solar energy production by consumers veiled as consumer protection. Supporters defended that it would do exactly what it promised to, while also protecting people from unfair business practices.
Amendment 1 was not done without a reason, and came as a response to another amendment. The Florida Property Tax Exemptions for Renewable Energy Equipment Amendment (also known as Amendment 4) which came earlier in the year in August. It passed the supermajority of 60%, and was implemented into the constitution.
The Amendment constitutionalized tax exemptions for renewable energy equipment, including solar energy equipment. Amendment 4 was legislatively added to the August 2016 ballot. Amendment 1 was put on the November 2016 ballot through collect citizen signatures.
According to opposition to Amendment 1, it was designed to negate Amendment 4 by removing the ability to sell solar energy, and thus reduce incentives to get solar energy.
Amendment 1 Support
Amendment 1 was supported by several of utility companies, who poured nearly $20 million into advertising. A recording leaked on October of 2016, revealing that the organization behind the amendment, Consumers for Smart Solar, had planned to use it as a means of preventing further measures like Amendment 4 from occurring.
Net Metering and the Future of Florida Solar
Net Metering refers to Florida law regarding how to pay for the excess energy residents sell back into the market, and whether the buyers should pay them at the retail rate, or the wholesale rate. Proponents argue that selling should be at retail price, as it incentivises more customers to adopt renewable energy sources. However, opponents argue that wholesale is better, since retail rates account for transportation and equipment that the energy companies ultimately have to pay for.
The prices for solar energy are dropping, and this is leading to rapid expansion of the solar industry in Florida. According to the Miami Herald, FPL and Duke Energy (both large contributors to Amendment 1), are calling for changes to Net Metering laws, and reductions in the rates that are returned to residential sellers. It’s like more laws and regulations may be pushed by utility companies to lower the rates, which could potentially reduce the adoption of solar panel systems while prices drop.