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Veto: Sunshine State remains solar-friendly

By Staff | May 5, 2022

The Florida House and Senate passed legislation this session that would have flipped the switch on home solar power incentives from “on” to “dim.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto of the controversial net-metering adjustment bill means Florida will remain solar friendly, at least for now.

The governor cited the escalating cost of well, everything, in his rejection of House Bill 741, which would have phased in reductions in how much utilities pay those who invest in home solar for their “excess” electricity while also paving the way towards fees that would further cut compensation received when those solar panels generate more electricity than is used.

The governor rejected the utilities-supported bill’s argument that electric companies need to impose fees to cover purported losses caused by solar panel use, saying the amount of any such recovery is speculative and would be bourne by all utility customers, those with solar and those without.

He also cited the economy.

“Given that the United States is experiencing its worst inflation in 40 years and that consumers have seen steep increases in the price of gas and groceries, as well as escalating bills, the state of Florida should not contribute to the financial crunch that our citizens are experiencing,” Gov. DeSantis wrote in his April 27 veto transmittal letter.

Despite compromises that do grandfather in homeowners who have already invested in panels, the governor’s veto of what critics called the “anti-rooftop solar bill” was the right move for the reasons cited and more.

First, a quick look at the direct financial impact.

While those who already have installed the panels would have been “grandfathered” for 20 years at the rate classification approved by the state in 2008, they still would have faced fees to allow electric companies to recoup costs said to be subsidized by ratepayers without solar. Opponents, who disputed the subsidy argument, say the fees alone would have greatly impacted how soon solar homeowners would have recouped the cost of going solar to save on their electric bills.

Those weighing whether to install panels were looking at a more costly impact.

Currently, homeowners who invest in solar are credited at the retail rate for any “excess” power that enters the utility grid to which they are required to connect. HB 741 would have begun to reduce that payment in 2023 as credits moved from the retail rate — the rate customers pay to the utility — to the wholesale rate, which is much less. By 2029, the wholesale rate credit would replace the retail rate credit. This means it would take longer again to make solar “pay for itself,” a primary selling point for those on the fiscal fence of going green.

Which brings us to another point: Along with the irony of an anti-solar initiative in the so-called Sunshine State, and the abatement of the state-created incentive to foster the use of home solar panels, the legislation was predicted to have an effect on the kind of clean, green industry the state boasts it wants to attract.

As critics of the legislation pointed out, the solar industry’s economic impact has topped $10 billion a year — a number expected to climb. Florida currently is third among states with solar capacity with the Solar Energy Industries Association also stating in a March 10 report that “solar accounted for 46% of all new electricity-generating capacity added in the US in 2021, the third year in a row that solar made up the largest share of new capacity.”

As an industry that has been impacted by ever-growing competition from sources not envisioned when business plans were drafted and investments made, we understand the angst felt by electric providers everywhere.

We do.

But technological innovations that give people options are the new business reality.

And technological innovations that provide a public benefit should not be legislatively impeded when no related negative outfall can be well documented and so proven.

— Breeze editorial