The run-on effects of Florida passing Amendment 1

With the legal wrangling continuing in Florida, PV Tech discusses Amendment 1 in detail. Credit James Madison Institute

As Election Day inches closer, the prospect of ballot measure Amendment 1 becoming a bona fide constitutional amendment in Florida becomes even more pressing.

In a press conference this week, former Florida governor and US senator Bob Graham detailed the shocking ramifications that the measure would have if it passed on 8 November.

Failed potential

The most obvious ramification of Amendment 1 passing is its negative effects on the state’s solar industry. Florida is not called the Sunshine State for nothing; as the closest mainland US state to the equator, it has some of the highest levels of irradiation of any state. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has ranked Florida as having the third-highest solar potential in the nation.

Despite this, Florida is only 14th in terms of actual installed capacity, with its emerging industry hindered by utility-friendly solar policies such as the topical prohibitive slant on third-party ownership.

“It is almost entirely a matter of bad public policy,” explained Graham, as he contrasted Florida with neighbouring state Georgia, which has made it easier for third parties to provide financing for solar installations and requires utilities to increase the amount of solar in their electrical generation.

“[Amendment 1] would discourage the expansion of solar by psychologically strengthening the position before an already compliant legislature and public service commission to continue to erect barriers against solar,” said Graham. “It would continue the reliance on fossil fuels.”

Solar users can expect surplus fees

The age-old argument that solar users are being subsidised by non-solar users for their use of the grid could be validated under Amendment 1. Investor-owned utilities have long made the argument that there should be a way to charge solar for its grid use, and such sentiment is reflected in the language of the Amendment.

Graham said: “There’s no factual basis to that, but I can already hear the arguments on the floor of the legislature, advocating that there should be substantial fees charged to solar users under the false argument that in some ways they are being subsidised.

“If Amendment 1 is not passed, they will make the argument anyway, but at least it won't be written in the constitution of Florida as a statement of proof that there is such subsidisation.”

Amendment 4 could be rendered useless

The passing of Amendment 4 in August was hailed as a shining victory for Florida’s solar industry. 73% of voters approved the ballot measure that made solar and other renewable energy equipment on commercial buildings exempt from property tax assessment increases.

However, Graham said: “Amendment 1 would encourage increased taxes on the installation and maintenance of those solar facilities, which could counter-balance and eliminate for all practical purposes the economic incentives that Amendment 4 was intended to provide.”

He hypothesised that under Amendment 4, if for example, one installed a US$20,000 solar installation on a commercial building, the assessed value of that property would not be increased by US$20,000 as it would be exempt from tax. But despite that US$20,000 system saving the average consumer around US$50-US$100, that saving would effectively be cancelled out if Amendment 1 were passed. This is because it is not unlikely that additional legislation would be enacted to charge an annual fee against solar panels intended to counter-balance the alleged subsidisation that solar users receive.

Utilities would have succeeded in duping the public

Surprisingly, Amendment 1 does allow homeowners to own or lease solar systems, but on the condition that such users shoulder their own cost of using solar and its effects on the grid because third-party residential ownership is not granted exemption from the utility code. So whilst a third-party user could sell or lease the power from their system, they are subject to the full burdens (and fees) of electric utility regulation.

Supporters of the amendment have peddled the misleading notion that it would block high-priced third-party solar companies from dominating the market and therefore prevent expensive PPAs. If voters buy into this disingenuous concept, they would have been successfully fooled into believing they had voted in a measure that is good for their local solar industry.

“This Amendment is deceptive because all the things the advocates say could happen with this Amendment can happen without it,” added Graham.

Leaked comments from James Madison Institute even admitted that the very makeup of the Amendment 1 campaign was intentionally deceptive.

Ultimately, if the ballot measure passes, the utilities that bankrolled the campaign would have succeeded in deceiving the public. And that in itself would be a travesty.

4 October 2022
Solar & Storage Finance USA, the only event that connects developers to capital and capital to solar and storage projects, will be back in November 2022.

Read Next

August 11, 2022
US solar tracker supplier Array Technologies has bounced back from a difficult 2021 by posting strong Q2 2022 financial results mainly due to its acquisition of STI Norland, while upcoming tailwinds could buoy its performance further still moving through the year.
August 10, 2022
OMERS Private Equity has acquired a minority stake in the Arizona-headquartered solar operations & maintenance (O&M) provider NovaSource Power Services.
August 10, 2022
US solar tracker manufacturer FTC Solar has cut its net losses compared with last quarter and Q2 2021 but has seen its revenue collapse, blaming a hostile solar environment in the US that has seen project delays and cancellations, which it said it now hoped was coming to an end.
August 9, 2022
The Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (DCPSC) has approved a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with renewables developer Invenergy for 73MW of solar power to meet a 5% renewables target for district’s default electricity supply.
August 8, 2022
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes US$369 billion in energy security and climate change programmes over the next ten years, passed in the US Senate on Sunday, paving the way for its movement to the House of Representatives and subsequent signing by President Joe Biden.
August 8, 2022
Energy technology company AES Corporation is still on track to reach its target of 4.5-5.5GW in long-term renewables and energy storage contracts in 2022, having already signed 1,618MW in the year to date, according the firm’s Q2 financial report.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
September 7, 2022
15:30 AEST (UTC +10)
Solar Media Events
September 14, 2022
Solar Media Events
October 4, 2022
New York, USA
Solar Media Events
October 11, 2022
Virtual event