The Solar Jobs Killer Bill: Who is Behind It?

The Solar Jobs Killer Bill: Who is Behind It?

A rooftop solar installation

Last Tuesday, lawmakers in Tallahassee voted to advance SB 1024, a bill that will drastically reduce Floridians’ ability to save money by investing in solar power generation on their homes, businesses, and places of worship. This bill will also kill thousands of good paying jobs in the residential solar industry and make sure the Sunshine State has some of the most restrictive laws regarding personal solar ownership in America. The need to act to preserve Floridians’ basic right to energy independence and controlling their power bills is urgent. We are facing monopoly utilities with a documented history of engaging in big money contributions to preserve their power, so we must act now. 

What is SB 1024 and why is net metering important?

SB 1024, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Bradley, directs the Public Service Commission (PSC) to revise the state’s Net Metering Rule, requiring utilities to purchase electricity generated by solar owners and credit their account. The bill would ask the PSC to change the way solar owners are compensated, and would increase fees and rates on solar owners, reducing the value of their investment and their savings on their bills. Net metering has been a tremendous success across America, with more than 40 states and territories adopting net metering rules that have resulted in more than 2 million solar installations, saving billions of dollars in power bills, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and particulate matter that causes asthma and other health issues. The solar industry also grew to support over 260,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2016. Sounds like a win-win right? 

Net metering is a benefit for consumers and society, but distributed solar generation and customer ownership does have its detractors. Most notably, major electric utilities don’t like it because it does reduce utility profits and their control over consumers. In Florida, most customers receive electricity from one of the state-granted monopoly utilities: Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Company, and Florida Public Utilities Company. Despite the fact consumers have no choice but to buy from these companies, every year these companies make millions of dollars in donations to Florida politicians and special interest groups, wielding disproportionate influence in Tallahassee.

Who wrote the bill?

In December, a bombshell report came out, and was later reported in several outlets, that the author of the net metering bill was Florida Power & Light. The reporting stated that company lobbyists wrote the bill and delivered it to Senator Bradley. A $10,000 donation to Senator Bradley’s political committee followed 2 days later.

Several journalists contributed to the reporting, but FP&L singled out one, Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald, and launched a website and promoted Tweet (prompting calls for an investigation to determine whether customer funds paid for the messaging) smearing her reputation and making accusations of anti-utility bias, while studiously avoiding questioning the accuracy of her reporting.

If it seems strange to you that your stodgy electric utility is engaging in a Twitter beef with people who criticize them, then buckle up, it gets much, much darker and more confusing. We will have more on this coming up.

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