The net metering debate comes to a head in Florida


For the first time since the program’s inception in 2008, the future of net metering will be a topic of discussion at a Florida Public Service Commission workshop, which is being held Thursday morning.

The workshop has come to be largely thanks to a letter, written by Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Dover, in May. Rep. McClure tore into net metering and the residential solar industry as a whole, claiming that the exponential growth seen in the last decade has, at some level, been reliant upon “unscrupulous installers preying on” low- and middle-income families.

According to McClure, these families have been duped into thinking that they can afford solar installations that are beyond their means by being oversold the benefits of the federal investment tax credit and net metering.

The letter also brings up the argument that net metering customers unfairly shift the costs of necessary utility infrastructure improvements onto non-net metering customers, which again preys on low- and middle-income electricity customers by raising their bills.

McClure’s letter and the arguments within it were based on a study released by a group called Energy Fairness. Energy Fairness, formerly the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, is an anti-clean energy front group focused on advocating for the positions of fossil fuel and utility interests.

The group is indirectly linked to Southern Company’s Alabama Power through Matrix LLC, an opposition research and lobbying firm that has provided political consulting services to Alabama Power for decades.

Industry response

In a blog post for The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, George Cavros, an energy policy attorney in Florida, calls the cost-shift arguments used by Energy Fairness “misleading at best,” and claims that the entire study is “a solution in search of a problem.”

Clarifying this, Cavros points to the comparatively low penetration of rooftop solar in Florida. As of 2019, there were fewer than 60,000 customer owned net-metered systems in Florida, compared to more than 10 million electricity customers. While the true figure fluctuated by utility, having less than 1% customers statewide participating in net metering net does not impose material operational or economic impacts on a utility’s system.

Cavros also disputes the cost-shift argument by bringing up that rooftop solar reduces the fuel burned by utilities to generate their own power and provides transmission and distribution benefits, namely reduced system stress. Instead of being an economic burden, net metering drives development and creates jobs, all while making our communities cleaner and more resilient in the face of dramatic weather.

Eyes on Thursday

While no policy decisions on the future of net metering in Florida will be made on Thursday, both sides will be presenting their arguments at the workshop. In addition to Cavros, thousands of ratepayers have filed public comments to regulators expressing their support for net metering.

The workshop will begin at 9:15 AM ET and will be available to stream in full on the Florida Public Service Commission’s website.

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