Florida regulators clear the way for Vivint’s solar lease

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The third most populous U.S. state, with almost 21 million people, has been a bit of a laggard – ranking 8th among states in terms of total solar deployed per the SEIA. But that is changing…

We here at pv magazine have a number of questions about the recent, dramatic rise of the Florida market. These include how much Florida will add the the installation numbers of leading residential installers Sunrun, Tesla, Vivint and Sunnova? And how will the utilities react?

The state’s utilities have already begun to build large-scale solar. NextEra, through its subsidiary FPL, has been deploying pollinator friendly 74.5 MW-AC solar plants like they’re going out of style.

As the latest, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has declared that Vivint Solar’s solar lease contract does not violate state law, and can be offered to consumers. In a vote 5-0, the commissioners approved three statements (PDF)

  • Vivint’s proposed residential solar equipment lease, as described by its petition, will not be deemed to constitute a sale of electricity
  • Offering its solar equipment lease, as described in its petition, to consumers in Florida will not cause Vivint to be deemed a public utility
  • The residential solar equipment lease described in its petition will not subject Vivint or Vivint’s customer-lessees to regulation by this Commission

The request to have these three questions answered was submitted by Vivint on May 23, 2018 (PDF). Vivint’s petition referenced the precedent set by Sunrun, on May 17, 2018, in Docket No. 20170273-EQ, In re: Petition of Sunrun Inc. for a declaratory statement concerning the leasing of solar equipment.

Solar leases have been deployed regularly in Florida, but before this ruling and similar rulings for other residential companies, this has been limited to the commercial market. And while Florida doesn’t have quite as intense of sunlight as the U.S. Southwest, St Petersburg, Florida set a record of 768 consecutive sunny days back in 1969.

Like much of the country, growth even in the face of political opposition is happening. Florida residential solar power doubled its pace in 2017, and we can expect more growth.

 

Correction: This article was corrected at 10:30 AM EST on August 15. The previous version stated that the Florida PSC had “approved” the lease, when in fact they had merely stated that it does not violate state law by constituting a sale of electricity by a party other than a regulated utility. We have changed the language in this article to avoid any confusion.