Florida’s controversial Amendment 1 fails

AP Photo
AP Photo

UPDATE: Florida voters have rejected a utility-funded ballot measure that would have opened the door for changes to the system of credit earned by homeowners who install solar panels and produce surplus energy.

Currently, solar owners who send extra power back into the energy grid earn credit that can offset the price of any energy they might use, in what is known as “net metering.” Such homeowners might produce all of their own power – and then some – during sunny periods.

They might draw electricity during cloudy periods but will have no net cost if it was offset by power they previously had made available to other users.

Utility companies argue that solar homeowners unfairly take advantage of infrastructure costs paid by other customers, and Amendment 1 would have allowed them to make changes to the state’s net metering system.

PREVIOUS STORY: (WFLA) – Florida’s Amendment 1 has proved controversial and expensive.

The Amendment 1 solar power initiative shaped up as one of the most expensive constitutional ballot questions in Florida history. The interests that pushed for its passage — dominated by the state’s largest power companies — contributed at least $21.5 million to the campaign.

RELATED: Utility companies spending millions of consumer dollars to push Amendment 1

Here’s how Ballotpedia described the amendment:

Supporters argue that Amendment 1 would further protect the rights of Florida residents to own solar equipment, while also protecting electricity consumers from unfair prices and poor businesses practices.

“Opponents argue that Amendment 1 was put on the ballot by big utility companies to protect their control over the energy market and inhibit net metering. They claim Amendment 1 was designed to prevent increased solar energy production by Florida residents and the sale of that solar energy back into the electric grid under the pretext of consumer protection.”

In November the union representing Florida firefighters, the Florida Professional Firefighters, pulled its support for the amendment. A press release read:

“The Florida Professional Firefighters have withdrawn our endorsement of Constitutional Amendment #1, Rights of Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice. Our support for the initiative was solely based on the proposed constitutional protection of local government’s right to regulate the safety of solar energy production. We continue to believe that fair and reasonable safeguards are vital to firefighter safety during fire/rescue operations on properties with multiple electricity sources and particularly retrofitted alternative energy sources such as solar power. As a member driven organization, our leadership has communicated with hundreds, if not thousands, of firefighters over the last few weeks regarding their concerns with Amendment 1 and the real firefighter safety issues related to solar energy systems. It is clear to the elected Executive Board of this organization that our membership would prefer to pursue any future firefighter safety regulations related to the still developing alternative energy industry through legislative or rulemaking action, as opposed to a constitutional amendment that many believe to be misleading. We have requested that Consumers for Smart Solar stop broadcasting advertisements featuring firefighters and/or the logo of the Florida Professional Firefighters.”

RELATED: Florida’s solar amendment could confuse voters

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.

Controversy surrounded the second part of the amendment. “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.

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