Controversy simmers in Florida over Senate rooftop solar bill

SB-1024 would reduce energy savings from rooftop solar panels by reducing the amount utility companies pay consumers who generate more electricity than they use.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Florida – Many homes have started going green when it comes to generating their own carbon-neutral electricity. Some families have achieved this through solar energy.

Over the years, many residential and commercial property owners have taken advantage of this incentive program. However, this week Florida’s Senate Committee on Regulated Industries voted 6 to 2 in favor of approving changes to those incentives.

State Senate Bill 1024, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island), would reduce energy savings from rooftop solar panels by reducing the amount utility companies pay consumers who generate more electricity than they need. use it. The bill has sparked controversy despite bipartisan support on the committee.

Proponents argued that the bill became necessary due to the growth of the solar industry which is now expensive for those without solar panels.

However, critics of SB1024 have cried foul and argue that Florida Power and Light, which is one of the nation’s largest utility companies, not only drafted the bill, but aims to crush the competition.

“Senate Bill 1024 would effectively turn off the sun for most people in the state of Florida,” said Bill Johnson, president of Brilliant Harvest. Brilliant Harvest is a Sarasota-based solar energy company.

According to providers of rooftop solar systems like Johnson, the future is bleak for their industry if the bill passes in its current form. He said utility companies want to eliminate homeowners’ ability to supply their own clean electricity.

“What the utility companies want is to be the only people providing electricity in the state of Florida that they’ve had a monopoly over for the last 75 years and that’s exclusive “, Johnson said.

Johnson is also a member of the board of directors of Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

At the center of the controversy over the bill is the issue of net metering. Under the current law, established in 2008, rooftop solar home or commercial systems can receive up to 11 cents per kilowatt in credits for future use for each kilowatt hour returned to the grid.

If SB1024 is adopted, this incentive would drop to approximately 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which represents a 75% reduction in value.

“It will decimate the industry in terms of financial incentive for solar energy. Removing this metering will effectively kill the solar industry in Florida,” Johnson said.

But an FP&L spokesperson said the law and incentives are outdated and need to be revamped to reflect current progress. He said FP&L provided recommendations to lawmakers on the bill and that the company’s support for the legislation was about fairness.

The company claimed that 99.5% of its customers do not use solar panels, but pay the monthly cost at $30 million per year currently and around $80 million by 2025.

“Today, customers who sell excess electricity to utilities like FP&L are paid a full retail rate, but they don’t provide retail service, so the markup is ultimately paid by all of our Our problem is that all of our customers end up subsidizing this private purchase and our position is very simple: if you choose not to install solar on your roof, you should not have to pay for the purchases deprived of anyone else,” said Chris McGrath, spokesperson for Florida Power and Light.

FP&L also argued that instead of utilities being forced to pay the retail rate for excess electricity, solar generators should be credited at what is commonly referred to as the “wholesale rate.” .

“They don’t provide any of the other services, whether it’s power station capacity, poles and wires, a customer service team, billing or catering teams. They provide a product wholesale and that’s what this legislation would change is how they’re compensated, from retail to wholesale,” McGrath said.

But critics say they are not sold on this reasoning and argue that there is room for everyone, young and old, to thrive in the industry and that parallel generation of solar power should be widely encouraged.

“We need qualified solar power and we need rooftop solar power. You don’t see the solar industry in Florida coming out and saying that utilities shouldn’t be able to make power solar is quite the opposite and we encourage them all the time to do more solar.But strangely the largest utility group in the state of Florida is trying to say that less than 1% of the total energy mix on the network should be effectively made impossible,” Johnson said.

However, FP&L maintained that it supported all types of solar power.

“We want to make sure that we stand up for fairness for all customers and also look at this issue from the perspective of the benefits that all customers get in the state of Florida. If you look at what’s most profitable solar power is unquestionably the large-scale ground-mounted solar power that we do throughout the state of Florida. We have 44 solar power plants in operation today and we are just getting started. We are well in ahead of schedule in our plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030,” McGrath said.

“Simply put, we believe the state benefits the most. And our customers benefit the most when the most solar energy is installed at the lowest possible cost and that is the solar energy that we We’re looking even further and it’s not just solar, it’s not just batteries, as we strive to tackle climate change, we’re even exploring green hydrogen technology which is potentially a technology that could one day unlock 100% carbon-free electricity available around the clock,” he added.

The proposal allows those already using rooftop solar systems to continue to do so under the current net metering rule for 10 more years.

Norman D. Briggs