Solar Power Choice for Homes Heating Up


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, October 15th, 2015 – Two rival groups are currently courting signatures for their respective versions of a proposed state constitutional amendment which could potentially drive wider use of more environment-friendly, and possibly cheaper, solar electricity for residences in Florida. A total of 683,149 signatures would be needed to place a proposed constitutional amendment in the forthcoming 2016 elections’ Florida ballot, and the two rival groups have until February 1st, 2016 to gather their respective support.

One of these two, the Floridians for Solar Choice, is advocating for an amendment that would allow solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) in the Sunshine State for the first time. Under Florida statutes, only a regulated utility company can sell power, and state laws don’t allow third-party PPAs no matter from where the power is generated.

Clean energy at lower cost?

Solar Power Choice for Homes Heating Up

In sunny Florida, solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of its power generation. It is also one of just four states that disallow third-party PPAs. This, in effect, bars the consumers from the choice of buying electricity from clean energy companies, such as SolarCity, which installs and owns the solar panels.

In other states like California, a solar power company merely lends panels to residences. It then sells the power the devices generate to the homeowner directly at rates said to be cheaper than thosecharged by traditional power companies.

Third-party PPAs have been reported as the prime drivers in the steady increase in installed solar capacity around the U.S. According to the clean energy information services provider Greentech Media, 72 percent of all solar power installations as of 2014 was owned by a third party and the rest accounted for by homeowners who installed their own solar panels.

Utilities’ inside play seen

The other Florida lobby group, Consumers for Smart Solar, opposes third-party PPAs and instead seeks a constitutional protection for Floridian non-solar customers from having to subsidize backup power for solar customers. Moreover, it asks for related additional regulations on consumer protection and seeks the right for Floridians to own and lease solar panels. The group’s critics contend though that residents of the state already have this right.

It has likewise been reported that close to half of the funding for the constitutional amendment campaign of Consumers for Smart Solar was contributed by some of Florida’s largest utility firms. These power companies could face stiff competition from solar power third-party PPAs if the other group’s proposed amendment musters the support of state residents.

In contrast, the Floridians for Solar Choice is mostly funded by the contribution of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund. This entity is an arm of a non-profit and non-partisan advocacy on clean energy options reportedly backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, an environmentalist and philanthropist.

Trend for Smart Solar

The Floridians for Solar Choice appears well ahead in gathering supporters, having collected close to 146,000 validated signatures towards end-September 2015 and awaiting validation from Florida’s Division of Elections for another 110,000 gathered signatures. The group Consumers for Smart Solar, on the other hand, has reportedly gathered 18,786 signatures.

In southwest Florida, the Manatee Sarasota Sierra Club and the Venice Area Audubon Society have already indicated support for the Floridians for Solar Power Choice. Other organizations backing this campaign include the Florida Retail Federation and the Christian Coalition Network.