It’s hard to overstate how important the next week will be for the U.S. solar industry. In addition to the obvious impacts of having a new president in the White House – and the profound difference between what a Trump presidency and a Clinton presidency would look like for the solar industry – there is the possibility that the U.S. Senate could shift from Republican to Democratic Party control.
Among other things this would put Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) in charge of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, instead of Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Cantwell has only been Ranking Member on the Committee for two years, following the defeat of Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) in 2014, but she has already shown herself to have very different priorities than Murkowski or Landrieu, both of whom have deep ties to fossil fuel industries and 20th century ideas about energy.
But in addition to the federal races, there are some very important elections for the U.S. solar industry at the state level. In Arizona, three seats on the state’s Corporation Commission (ACC) are up for grabs. Over the last few years ACC has issued rulings which have had impacts on the solar industry and in particular net metering policies well beyond the state’s borders, and both the solar industry and utilities have been pouring money into these races.
Additionally, in Nevada, a ballot measure is coming before the state’s voters to break up the monopoly held by NV Energy and its subsidiaries and liberalize the state’s electricity market. This could be a major boon to renewable energy, as well potentially providing a vehicle for other legislation that could revive net metering.
But of all the state-level issues, the one that will likely be watched most closely is Florida’s Amendment 1, the utility-backed Trojan Horse that is attempting to undermine net metering and any other potential solar policies with what has been admitted to be purposefully deceptive language.
Four utilities backing amendment 1 put another $3.5 million into the campaign the week after local press got their hands on a tape which showed one of the lobbyists behind the measure describing it as “political jiu-jitsu” to defeat solar, bringing the total spend to over $23 million. And because it couldn’t get sketchier, fake voter guides have been distributed in Miami-Dade County claiming Democratic Party support for Amendment 1.
Even before these scandals a wide section of the press had come out against the proposal, with 10 different papers in the state including the Miami Herald issuing statements in opposition to Amendment 1 over the last six weeks.
As the latest, Florida Solar Energy Industries Association (FSEIA) and Floridians for Solar Choice have filed legal actions asking the state’s Supreme Court to disqualify the outcome of Amendment 1 voting due to what we see as the intentional deception involved, and the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has sent officials and staff to Florida in an on-the-ground push to kill the bill.
The battle lines couldn’t be more clear, and more and more the fight over Amendment 1 is looking like a microcosm of the battles that the solar industry is engaged in across the nation, with investor-owned utilities trying every trick in the book to end net metering, push a “cost-shift” myth, and change rate structures to drive distributed solar out of their service areas.
We salute SEIA, Vote Solar, Floridians for Solar Choice, FSEIA, and the other groups who are fighting to stop Amendment 1. Like the presidential race, this is a make-or-break moment for our industry, and we simply have to win this one.
That being said, be sure to check back on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for pv magazine USA’s 2016 election coverage, including analysis and assessment of the presidential race, the battle for the Senate, Florida’s Amendment 1, Arizona Corporation Commission races, and more.