So-called solar Amendment 1 isn’t what it appears to be, and there is no need for such a constitutional amendment, Former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham said Tuesday in a conference call with media.
Graham, who grew up in house with a solar water heater and is a long-time solar energy supporter, said the Florida Public Service Commission and the Legislature already have the authority to do all the things that Amendment 1 purports to do, whether it’s safety, access, regulation or taxation.
He sharply criticized the proposal as deceptive, and urged voters to vote against Amendment 1, saying its passage could result in far-reaching impacts on solar energy production in the state as well as helping to spur continued reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels.
Amendment 1 needs a 60 percent voter approval rate to pass. Consumers for Smart Solar, largely funded by Florida’s investor-owned utilities, has contributed more than $26 million to convince voters to approve the initiative, and its television ads are misleading, Graham said.
Florida lags behind Georgia four-to-one in solar energy installations due to bad public policy, Graham said. In contrast, Georgia has changed its regulations to encourage solar energy and has become one of the most solar-friendly states.
“There are number of negative consequences of the passage of Amendment 1. One, it would discourage the expansion of solar by psychologically strengthening the position before an already compliant legislature and public service commission to continue to erect barriers against solar,” Graham said.
Graham said that initial idea behind Amendment 1 was to block what would have been a citizens’ peitition aimed at advancing solar energy in Florida.
The pro-solar amendment faltered when it failed to obtain enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
“As we learned recently through revelations involving conversations between utilities and the James Madison Institute, another reason for Amendment 1 was to confuse and deceive voters to offer them the prospect of increased solar, while in fact putting forward a constitutional amendment that would frustrate solar,” Graham said.
The assertion by Amendment 1 advocates that solar users are being subsidized by non-solar users has no factual basis, Graham said.
In fact a May report released by the Brookings Institution found that rooftop solar saves customers money because it avoids having to build additional power plants, Graham said.
The passage of Amendment 1 could also counterbalance and eliminate the positive impact of Amendment 4, a solar tax break voters approved Aug. 30. That’s because Amendment 1 would encourage increased taxes on the installation and maintenance of solar facilities, he said.
Nevada recently passed the kinds of laws that Amendment 1 will encourage and saw a 92 percent decline in solar installations, Graham said.
Susan Glickman, an attorney with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund, said the most recent report from Florida Power & Light and other investor-owned utilities, shows that out of 9 million electric customers in Florida, only 11,626 have rooftop solar systems.