Florida follies: Utilities continue to fund fake pro-solar Amendment 1

Florida utilities have poured $3.5 million into the Amendment 1 campaign in an attempt to assure its passage when it goes before Florida voters next week.

The companies — Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co. (TECO) have already spent more than $20 million on a group called Consumers for Smart Solar (CSS), a utility front that helped put the issue on the ballot in the first place.

Amendment 1 sounds pro-solar, but in fact only codifies rights Floridians have in the first half of the ballot initiative. The second half of the amendment gives utilities free rein to charge solar customers more in fees and taxes to offset an alleged cost-shift to non-solar customers. Studies in nearly 19 states show that the cost-shift argument is almost always a myth.

According to new data released by the Florida Division of Elections, FPL contributed $2 million on Oct. 24 — nearly a quarter of the $8 million they’ve contributed overall. Duke contributed nearly $1 million, and TECO gave $160,000.

These donations come on the heels of two bad weeks for the utilities, during which their lobbyist was heard bragging on tape about the fact the utilities had created Amendment 1 as an act of “political jiu-jitsu” to negate the efforts of solar advocates. Then, after denying a connection, CSS was caught trying to scrub their tight connections with the lobbyist from their social media accounts.

Finally, a “mysterious” voter guide circulated in Miami-Dade County, urging a pro-Amendment 1 vote along with supporting a Republican candidate for mayor. The guide allegedly came from the Florida Democratic Party, which a spokesman for the party denied, pointing out that the party is on record as opposing Amendment 1.

With the last-ditch infusion of money, solar advocates are pushing home their advantage. Women4Solar Founder and CEO Raina Russo wrote an open letter to the backers of Amendment 1 and sent it to the CEOs of the four utilities and the head of CSS.

“How is Amendement 1 enabling the market for solar energy to grow in Florida?” Russo wrote. “We want to [be able] to choose solar energy without feeling threatened and without breaking the bank. We’re not asking for a free ride — just simply a clear road without unnecessary obstacles or frightening unforeseen future penalties.”

David Pomeranz, executive director of of the Energy and Policy Institute, was even more pointed.

“This latest cash-dump by FPL and Duke is a desperate effort to buy and election with a flood of last-ditch, deceptive advertisements,” Pomeranz said. “But the public is rapidly learning that Amendment 1 is an anti-solar wolf in sheep’s clothing. No amount of utility money can hide the truth.:

Floridians will decide the fate of Amendment 1 on Nov. 8.