All (solar) eyes will be on Florida

By Tony Clifford 

Tony Clifford
Tony Clifford

Tony Clifford

If you haven’t heard, there’s a presidential election happening next week. So naturally, as they do every four years, all eyes in the country turn to Florida — or at least all the eyes of people whose livelihood depends on the solar industry.

At issue in Florida is Amendment 1, a fake “pro-solar” ballot initiative designed to keep the solar industry under the utilities’ control for eternity. Think I’m exaggerating? Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Sam Nuzzo, a consultant for Florida’s utilities, explain how the amendment was designed to stymie the moves of solar advocates in the future.

Amendment 1 was a panicked response by the utilities to a genuine voter-backed amendment that would have given third parties the right to sell solar to Floridians who wanted the power to harness one of the most plentiful natural resources of the Sunshine State.

Afraid of losing control of electricity-generation, the utilities banded together under the anodyne-named group Consumers for Solar Choice. They have spent more than $20 million in an attempt to trick Floridians into enshrining in their constitution the rights of utilities to charge solar consumers for the privilege of being solar customers. And it essentially provides them cover to charge whatever they want, whenever they want.

Fortunately, some slips here and there in the past three weeks lifted the veil off their efforts. First Sam Nuzzo’s comments came to light. Then, after denying an association with him, Consumers for Solar Choice tried to scrub all evidence of their cozy relationship from their social-media platforms (but they forgot screenshots are forever). And there was an odd voter’s guide that didn’t square with reality.

Clearly, however, the bad publicity from these mistakes panicked the utilities because they dumped almost $4 million more into the pro-Amendment 1 campaign a mere week before Floridians were to start voting. If that doesn’t reek of desperation, I don’t know what does.

For those Floridians still considering a “Yes” vote on Amendment 1, let me be blunt: The utilities are trying to make fools out of you and keep you under their watchful eye when it comes to electricity generation. Don’t let them take solar out of your hands and keep you from true electricity choice.

The rest of the country is watching. Do the right thing and vote “No” on Amendment 1.

Clifford is the chief development officer of Standard Solar.