Tuesday Floridians voted overwhelmingly to lower taxes on solar equipment. But activists are bracing for another campaign – this one against a utility-backed amendment on the November ballot.
Winning nearly 73% of the vote Tuesday, the success of Amendment 4 could signal growing interest in Florida’s solar potential. The measure will make it cheaper for companies to install solar, and boasts the support of lawmakers, industry groups and environmentalists. But activists hope that sunny enthusiasm won’t fuel the utility-backed Amendment 1, a measure they say would mean added costs and penalties for solar users. Stephen Smith heads the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. While the amendments may sound similar, he argues one encourages solar expansion, and the other doesn't.
“Amendment 4 was basically a reduction in taxes. Amendment 1 is the utility companies trying to get the ability to put additional charges and controls on people who have solar,” Smith said.
The pro-Amendment 1 campaign has raised $16 million, with 13 million coming from the state’s utility companies Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Company and Gulf Power. Smith argues the companies don't want to sacrifice profits for clean energy.
“The utilities want to charge customers more who have solar, because those people will not be buying as much electricity from them. And it’s not fair, it’s punitive and it will hold the market back," he said.
Leading up to the November election, activists will continue to educate voters who may confuse the amendments.