Florida has long been known as the Sunshine State, and with good reason too. When people think of this place the words sun, surf, and sand are what often come to mind, so why aren’t we making use of the one other resource we have in abundance besides water?
It is now becoming known that solar panels are one of the best ways to combat global climate change. Not only are they sustainable, but solar energy is entirely renewable, making it a perfect alternative to the fossil fuels we currently use. As of now, Florida law currently “forbids any entity—including homeowner associations—from prohibiting the installation of solar or other renewable energy devices on Florida buildings”. However, although solar panels are technically legal, Florida remains one of four states that prohibit citizens from buying electricity from anyone other than a utility. Known as third-party solar ownership, this lowers the cost of solar installation and maintenance, giving homeowners a huge drive to install these panels. Since Floridians are unable to partake in third-party solar ownership, many people are beginning to challenge this rule.
Unfortunately, power companies are doing everything they can to keep solar panels from becoming widely used, and thanks to their heavy involvement in Florida politics, they’ve managed to do just this. Consumers for Smart Solar, or CSS, is a group created specifically to challenge any changes that would make Florida’s energy more environmentally and economically friendly. The organization is currently pushing Floridians to “support an amendment that would actually prevent homeowners or businesses from contracting with solar companies that can install solar for no upfront cost”, and has received over $473,750 in donations from outside groups and $325,000 from Florida utilities. In addition to this, an analysis of campaign records by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting shows that the utility companies have put $12 million into the campaigns of state lawmakers since 2010. With that type of money flowing to their political campaigns, politicians are hesitant to support anything to do with renewable energy.
However, there is still hope for change. Thanks to organizations such as Conservatives for Energy Freedom, the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, and the coalition known as Floridians for Solar Choice, people are getting organized and working towards putting an amendment for solar choice on the 2016 ballot. If passed, this amendment will end the utility companies’ monopoly over energy generation and give homeowners the ability to enter into what are called Solar Power Purchase Agreements (SPPA) and make Florida the 47th state to allow these agreements.