Florida’s Supreme Court Rules On Solar Power

Florida’s Newest Solar Power Plans

The state of energy in America – and in the world – is constantly changing.  We have longstanding power companies, and a certain amount of stability that perhaps helps us to ignore or be blind to that, but the world is always changing under everyone’s feet.  One evidence of that change is the gradual adaptation of solar energy, and the growth of that industry.

Probably due to a somewhat unique legal situation in Florida (and a few other states), residents haven’t been adapting solar power as fast as residents in other states.  Recently, Florida citizens exercised their First Amendment right to petition as part of an effort to change those state laws.

As such, they have successfully put the desired changes to state law into the 2016 ballot, which is projected to lead to an increase in solar energy harnessed in the future.  Read the details below!

Solar power could soon be flourishing the Sunshine State. Thursday morning the Florida Supreme Court approved an initiative for the 2016 ballot that would allow Floridians to vote to reduce the state’s restrictions on rooftop solar power.

Although solar is growing exponentially nationwide, it has not thrived in Florida. Florida is one of a handful of states that prohibit residents from purchasing electricity from a source other than an electric utility. This has locked out third-party solar rooftop companies, such as SolarCity and SunRun, which install rooftop solar panels on a customer’s property at no cost and sell solar-generated power to that customer at a reduced electric rate.

A coalition of solar advocates called Floridians for Solar Choice has been leading the effort to change this policy by pursuing a ballot initiative to permit third-party financing for rooftop solar by private companies. To get the initiative on the ballot, Florida required the coalition to first collect 68,314 voter signatures and then have the initiative language approved by the state Supreme Court.

On Thursday, the ballot initiative cleared this major hurdle when the Florida Supreme Court approved the “Solar Choice Amendment” for the November 2016 ballot. Advocates now have to collect the requisite 683,149 signatures to ensure the initiative goes on the ballot. It will then have to pass with 60 percent of the vote in 2016.

Building the state’s renewable energy sector will be important to facilitate compliance with the Clean Power Plan, which requires Florida to reduce its emissions from fossil fuel power plants by 25% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. According to analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Florida could meet its CPP 2030 goal by increasing renewable energy generation to 10 percent of the state’s electricity mix. The Solar Energy Industries Association ranks Florida as third in the nation for rooftop photovoltaic potential and the National Renewable Energy Lab estimated that the rooftop solar panels in the state could generate between 5 and 6 kWh per square meter installed per day.

Following the release of the Clean Power Plan, the Florida Public Service Commission — the state body responsible for regulating electricity — issued a news release listing the state’s carbon pollution reductions since 2008 and touting the 530 MW of renewable generation that has been added since 2008. This includes rooftop solar, utility-scale projects, and power-purchase agreements. But 530 MW of renewable generation pales in comparison to estimates of Florida’s potential if third party financing was available. In fact, back in 2008, the Florida PSC released a report saying that rooftop solar alone had the potential to generate nearly 100 times that amount.

Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, is fighting against the Clean Power Plan, joining 14 other attorneys general in filing with the DC Circuit for a stay of the rule’s compliance deadlines. Bondi joined them in arguing that EPA’s rule must be stopped because it would cause “irreparable harm” to the states.

But state polling indicates that both the Solar Choice amendment and the Clean Power Plan are popular among Florida voters. According to a survey conducted by the Republican firm North Star Opinion Research, 74 percent of Florida voters say they support the Solar Choice ballot proposal. And recent polling by Public Policy Polling found that 63 percent of Florida voters say they support the Clean Power Plan.

As of October 22nd, Florida voters cleared a hurdle to be able to decide for themselves in 2016.

Source: ThinkProgress.Org

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