Florida legislators attempt to appease solar advocates with amendment to controversial net metering bill


Rep. Lawrence McClure, the House sponsor of Florida’s House Bill 741, the companion to Senate Bill 1024, offered an amendment on the controversial bill, which would allow current solar users to retain their financial incentives for 20 years, instead of 10 years, as was originally written.

HB 741/SB 1024 would change the existing net metering structure from one that has promoted the development of renewable energy resources in this state, to one that purports to “continue” development “in a manner that is fair and equitable to all public utility customers.”

The basis for the change to the code relies on the cost-shift argument, with the claiming that, “The substantial growth of customer-owned and -leased renewable generation has resulted in increased cross-subsidization of the full cost of electric service onto the public utility’s general body of ratepayers.”

As it currently stands, roughly 90,000 of Florida’s 8.5 million electric customers utilize net metering to sell electricity back to the grid, and the bill claims that this roughly 1% group of electrical customers is unfairly shifting the cost of supplying electricity back to the other 99%.

SB 1024 calls on the Florida Public Service Commission to set up a successor net metering program by January 1, 2023. The new program is required to:

  • Ensure that public utility customers owning or leasing renewable generation pay the full cost of electric service and are not subsidized by the public utility’s general body of ratepayers.
  • Ensure that all energy delivered by the public utility is purchased at the public utility’s applicable retail rate and that all energy delivered by customer-owned or -leased renewable generation to the public utility is credited to the customer at the public utility’s full avoided costs.

The bill would also allow utilities to add base facilities charges, electric grid access fees, monthly minimum bills, or other fixed charges to customers’ bills in order to ensure the utility recovers their cost of serving net metering customers. Customers who had their system operational before Jan. 1, 2023 would have their previous compensation rate sustained for 20 more years, as per the new amendment.

Sixteen state-level studies, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, have disproven the cost-shift argument, as has a national study, completed by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Berkeley found that 40 of the 43 states and Washington D.C. with net metering programs have a negligible cost increase attributed to solar, and that the cost picture remains this way until solar penetration meets 10% of a state’s generation portfolio.

Additionally, according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, when Florida’s utilities last requested rate increases from the Public Service Commission, not one cited lost revenue from rooftop solar customers as an issue.

Of the bill, Justin Vandenbroeck, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association said that, while the organization is still analyzing the full impact of the legislation, “Initial modeling suggests this legislation has the potential to set the rooftop solar industry back nearly a decade.  Erasing the thousands of jobs, consumer choice and savings, along with the resiliency benefits that rooftop solar offers to Floridians.”

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