Florida’s solar amendment could confuse voters

Adam Hall Steven Gabert
In this July 28, 2015, photo, electricians Adam Hall, right, and Steven Gabert, install solar panels on a roof for Arizona Public Service company in Goodyear, Ariz. Traditional power companies are getting into small-scale solar energy and competing for space. The emerging competition comes as utilities and smaller solar installers fight over the future of the U.S. energy system. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(WFLA) — Many people wait until they get into the voting booth to read some of the amendments they can vote on. But there is one amendment that Florida utility companies are spending millions on, with the hope it will pass. You’ll find it on your ballot in the coming weeks.

Some say if you wait until you get into the voting booth to read the solar amendment, you might be confused about what you’re voting for.

The amendment reads: This amendment establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.

Eric Peterson has read the amendment and is excited about the new solar panels on his Dunedin home. “In my case I designed it myself. I installed it myself. You can do it for the cost of a small Hyundai,” said Peterson.

In fact, Eric is bringing in energy, much of which he uses. The energy he doesn’t use, is patched back into the electric grid, Duke energy pays him for it. Eric tells me the panels will pay for themselves in eight years. The question is, will that change under amendment one?

“We already have the right. I installed it,” said Eric after reading the amendment.

But the controversy is mostly around the second sentence in the amendment. Those in favor of the amendment say it protects consumers from scams and rip offs. But when we went to the Clean Energy Research Center at USF, they see it differently.

“That would allow the utilities to charge people if they were solar panels on their roofs or they were producing their own energy,” said Director of Clean Energy Research Center Dr. Yogi Goswami.

It’s important to note, those in favor of the amendment are companies like Duke Energy and TECO, who’ve spent tens of millions to get voters to support the amendment. Sunshine state voters, have to read between the lines and have to make an important decision.

Take a look at the websites from each side of the issue.

RELATED: 2016 General Election Voter Guide

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