Florida initiative to exempt solar from property taxes passes by wide margin

Yesterday Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to exempt solar PV systems from the tangible personal property tax and ad valorem real estate taxes, which solar advocates say are key barriers to the development of solar in the state.

Florida is the nation’s third-most populous state, with over 20 million residents, and offers excellent natural conditions for solar generation. However, due to a number of barriers the state has not been a significant market for solar PV to date. And while it is still not legal to create a residential power purchase agreement (PPA), advocates have told pv magazine that taxes are actually the largest barrier.

The first step to removing this barrier occurred last night, with preliminary results indicating that voters had approved Measure 4 with 73% in favor and only 27% opposed. The results were hailed by solar and renewable energy advocates including Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Vote Solar, and Advanced Energy Economy.

“Amendment 4 removes financial barriers to smart local investment,” stated SEIA VP of State Affairs Sean Gallagher in an emailed statement. “It’s clear, Floridians want better access to affordable, clean energy options and this vote is a significant step in the right direction.”

Now the Florida Legislature must approve the changes proposed in Measure 4. The odds of this look good, as the measure was unanimously approved by legislators in March.

However, there is also the possibility that barriers to solar in Florida may increase. In November voters will have the opportunity to vote on another measure, under which consumers will be prevented from “subsidizing” the “backup power and grid access” of PV system owners, under the guise of consumer protection.

Instead, Measure 1 is likely to be used to sabotage the state’s net metering policy and any other policies to compensate PV system owners for the electricity they generate. Opponents of the measure claim that the amendment is the work of the state’s utilities.

This looks like it may be a difficult fight for the solar industry. As of late July Measure 1 had amassed over $16 million in cash, while opponents of the measure had only raised $2 million.