Friday, October 23, 2015

Florida Supreme Court Clears Hurdle Out of the Way for Solar Power to Flourish

In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 photo, Henry Plange, a power generation engineer, checks temperatures of solar panels at the Space Coast Next Generation Solar Center, in Merritt Island, Fla. Industry experts rank Florida third in the nation in rooftop solar energy potential but 13th in the amount of solar energy generated. (Photo Credit: AP/John Raoux) Click to Enlarge.-->
Solar power could soon be flourishing the Sunshine State.  Thursday morning the Florida Supreme Court approved an initiative for the 2016 ballot that would allow Floridians to vote to reduce the state’s restrictions on rooftop solar power.

Although solar is growing exponentially nationwide, it has not thrived in Florida.  Florida is one of a handful of states that prohibit residents from purchasing electricity from a source other than an electric utility.  This has locked out third-party solar rooftop companies, such as SolarCity and SunRun, which install rooftop solar panels on a customer’s property at no cost and sell solar-generated power to that customer at a reduced electric rate.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, a coalition of solar advocates called Floridians for Solar Choice has been leading the effort to change this policy by pursuing a ballot initiative to permit third-party financing for rooftop solar by private companies.  To get the initiative on the ballot, Florida required the coalition to first collect 68,314 voter signatures and then have the initiative language approved by the state Supreme Court.

On Thursday the ballot initiative cleared this major hurdle when the Florida Supreme Court approved the “Solar Choice Amendment” for the November 2016 ballot.  Advocates now have to collect the requisite 683,149 signatures to ensure the initiative goes on the ballot.  It will then have to pass with 60 percent of the vote in 2016.

Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, has been an active opponent of these efforts, arguing against it to the state Supreme Court.  In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, Bondi called for the ballot initiative to be rejected due to misleading language.  “Because local solar energy already exists in Florida, the summary misleads by suggesting the existence of ‘barriers’ and implying that the Amendment is necessary to allow local solar energy,” she stated.  However, according to Floridians for Solar Choice’s website, current law “prohibits customer choice and blocks the growth of this abundant, clean homegrown energy source.”  The measure is aimed at “expanding solar choice by allowing all customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar.”

Read more at Florida Supreme Court Clears Hurdle Out of the Way for Solar Power to Flourish

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