Florida Amendment 1 opponents condemn utility duplicity

Critics of Florida’s Amendment 1, a utilities-backed initiative designed to codify their monopoly status in the state’s constitution, fired back after a recording leaked Tuesday of a consultant bragging about the “political jiu-jitsu” the utilities used to outflank solar advocates.

The recording, made at the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville earlier this month, captured Sal Nuzzo, a vice president at the James Madison Institute, a free-market think tank in Tallahassee, Fla., talking about how his firm aided the utilities in creating Amendment 1 to stifle pro-solar growth in the state.

On the audio, released to the Miami Herald on Tuesday, Nuzzo described Amendment 1 as “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”

To put Amendment 1 on the ballot for Nov. 8, the utilities have spent more than $21 million.

Reaction to the recording by Amendment 1 opponents, under the umbrella coalition Floridians for Solar Choice, was predictably harsh and biting.

“This tape shows the extraordinary lengths of deception, the utter disrespect for the Florida voters and the arrogance of the big monopoly utilities embedded in the fraudulent Amendment 1 on the ballot in November,” said Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “This is not a political left or right issue, this is a fundamental issue of what is right and wrong.”  

Florida’s chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association condemned the utilities’ political machinations and pleaded with Florida voters not to allow themselves fooled by the seemingly pro-solar ballot language.

“This is a clear example of big utilities using monopoly power and money to interfere with small business owners in the state of Florida who are trying respond to customers’ desires for more rooftop solar power,” said Patrick Altier of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

If Amendment 1 is allowed to pass, it will be the biggest fraud on Florida citizens since the utilities lined their pockets with billions for advanced nuclear recovery,” he added.

Nuzzo is also heard on the tape making inaccurate and misleading statements about solar in general and Amendment 1 in particular. He contends that solar installations are primarily the province of the wealthy and that solar customers don’t pay for infrastructure upkeep, increasing costs for non-solar consumers.

Studies in 16 states undercut the latter claim, and only one (in Louisiana) indicated solar increased costs on non-solar customers. That study was conducted by Acadian Consulting, Baton Rouge, La.-based consultancy with inextricable ties to the fossil-fuel industry.

In addition, plunging prices, combined with innovative financing options, have moved solar from being a niche market to being in the mainstream of energy production for residential customers. Solar is already at grid parity in 20 states.