In a hard blow to the budding solar rooftop industry in Florida, the state legislature passed House Bill 741, which phases down the value of net metering, and opens the door for utilities to add fixed charges to solar customer bills. Advocacy organizations FLASEIA, Vote Solar, and environmental groups in the state said they will now call on Governor Ron Desantis to veto the bill.
Once the law takes effect in 2023, payments to solar customers will regress from a retail rate, like the one they pay utilities at around 10 cents a kilowatt, to the “avoided cost” to the utility, a fraction of the retail rate. The phase out will slash payment rates to solar customers by 50% in four years and would drop further still to the avoided cost rate by 2029.
The bill also allows for fixed charges for grid connected solar customers starting in 2026. The broad language in the bill does not set a limit on the fixed charges. Similar fees were proposed in the now-stalled California Net Energy Metering 3.0 and were described as “a tax on the sun.”
“This bill is a nightmare for anyone who believes in energy freedom and the rights of people to choose the energy that works for them and their families. Net metering has helped over 100,000 Florida homeowners make that choice, and utilities are now banking on the state government to strip those rights away and pad their monopoly hold on electricity. Florida has seen its solar industry grow to employ 11,000 people and generate over $10 billion in economic activity. States that enact bad legislation like this will see much of that business growth disappear, and we’re urging Governor Desantis to veto the bill and maintain Florida’s place as a national energy leader. This is a simple choice between helping the monopolies and helping the people.” Will Giese, southeast regional director, Solar Energy Industries Association.
The bill had been faced with bipartisan opposition from Florida voters. A Mason Dixon poll showed 74% of Republicans and 94% of Democrat respondents wanted net metering to remain intact. In the same survey 68% of respondents said they think utilities should make it easier to install rooftop solar, not harder.
Founded on the idea of the “cost shift,” the bills are pitched as a protection for non-solar customers from raised rates through cross-subsidizing solar customers. Studies completed by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that 40 of the 43 states and Washington D.C. with net metering programs have a negligible cost increase attributed to solar.
The Berkeley study found that cost pressures from net metering don’t start making a tangible effect until solar penetration reaches 10%. Florida is nowhere near this figure, with 0.86% of households currently topped with solar. Read more about the “cost shift” and a utility-funded coalition that spread the idea in California here.
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