At a campaign event yesterday in Miami, Secretary Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore ripped into Florida’s Amendment 1, a utility-sponsored ballot issue on which citizens will vote on Nov. 8.
Gore implored the crowd not to be fooled by amendment, which he said would destroy the solar industry by eliminating net-metering.
“Our democracy has been hacked,” Gore said in his remarks. “And the fossil utilities [in Florida] have spent $20 million to try to pull the wool over your eyes — and $20 million can buy a lot of wool.”
Amendment 1 was put on the ballot after a well-funded, utility-backed “citizens group” called Consumers for Smart Solar. It purports to allow consumers to put solar in their roofs but, as critics have pointed out, Floridians already have that right.
It’s the fine print of the amendment that has the solar industry steaming: It prevents third parties from doing business in the state. In practice, that means control over solar installations will remain in the hands of the utilities, through utility-scale solar plants and control of interconnection permits for residential installations. It also enacts “constitutional protection for any state or local law ensuring that residents who do not produce solar energy can abstain from subsidizing its production.”
In practical terms, that language allows non-solar users to opt out of paying for solar customers’ use of the grid, which would give utilities the green light to charge solar-array owners more money — to fund the upkeep of the grid, according to the utilities. It would also destroy policies like net-metering.
“Amendment One is a deceptive attempt by Florida’s electric monopolies to continue to block the sun and protect their business model,” said Debbie Dooley, national Tea Party founder, founder of the Green Tea Coalition and president of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “Florida Power & Light Co., Duke Energy and others are resorting to deception to keep consumers shackled to them and deny Floridians true energy freedom. Voters that want real energy choice should vote no.”
Additional charges and anti-net-metering tactics have been used by utilities in other states to stunt solar’s growth, with mixed successes.
According to Politico and other previously published reports, utilities, including Florida Power & Light Co., Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power Co., have given $16.5 million to Consumers for Smart Solar. That’s 78.6% of the group’s overall fundraising, which currently stands at more than $21 million.
For one of the first times in the campaign, Clinton focused the bulk of her speech on the issue of climate change, tell Floridians that neither the country — nor the world — could afford to put a climate-change denier in the White House.
“That is completely unacceptable,” Clinton said. “We need a president who believes in science and has a plant to help the United States face this threat.”
Clinton added that if the ocean keeps rising at its current rate, one in eight Florida homes will be underwater by the end of the century. “That’s more than $400 billion in property that’s at risk,” she added.
Clinton also repeated her pledge to install more than 50o million solar panels across the country by the end of her first term.
Update: This article was updated at 1:12 pm EST on 10/12/16 to include commentary by Debbie Dooley.