When Solar Energy burns… or voting NO against Amendment #1 in Florida

Maybe you think that the US Election is going crazy and voting in 2106 is unease, but if you vote in Florida that strange feeling is going to be duplicated when you see the whole ballot.

When you read the proposal of constitutional amendment #1 in Florida you will be absolutely clueless, and it will be worse when you see what is behind it. I’ll try to explain.

This is the text of the amendment:

“This amendment establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do. The amendment is not expected to result in an increase or decrease in any revenues or costs to state and local government.”

If you are a pro-environment person this amendment may sound wonderful, and if you see that it is supported by a coalition named ‘Consumers for Smart Solar’ you will be ready to vote yes. But watch out, not everything looks like it really is. This amendment has a dark side which has produced the most incredible voices in favor and against it.

The first concern about Amendment #1 is the proposal by itself. Consumers already have the right to own or lease solar equipment for their own use, so why to amend something if you are not changing anything? I’ll explain the reason later, but let me express my second concern.

‘Consumers for Smart Solar’ sound like an environmentalist group and a good ally of regular citizens: the consumers; their logo is a nice sun and the slogan is “Yes on 1 for the sun”.

But those who oppose it say Consumers for Smart Solar (CSS) is a wolf dressed like a lamb. When you see who is behind CSS, financing a $21 million campaign in favor of the amendment, you will understand the reason for the accusation. Consumers for Smart Solar is backed by Duke Energy, Florida Power Light (FPL), Exon Mobil, Teco (Tampa Electric), Koch Brothers and Gulf Power.

Do the utility monopolies want to have consumers producing their own energy and not paying them for it? The answer is obviously no.

Let’s explain now.

I asked above why to amend something to leave it as it was before, and I found two reasons.

The first reason is that the second part of the proposal has bait on the hook that changes what is currently happening and will block further initiatives to favor solar energy outside of the net of monopolies, and making it constitutional makes it a nonnegotiable principle, which is the second reason for monopolies to propose this amendment.

Let’s see a possible example. Floridian voters approved amendment 4 in last August primary elections, which provides a tax break on property taxes for owners that have solar panels. Though it is very unlikely, someone could argue that the government is losing money because of the tax break, making amendment 1 and 4 contradictory. However, the tricky part of amendment 1 is not this one, but another.

Utility companies could say -as they have said in private- that they would have to increase the prices of energy if consumers produce their own energy without paying them (net metering). This claim will obligate owners of houses or business with solar panels to pay them or to buy or lease solar energy from them, otherwise the people that don’t have solar panels would be subsidizing the energy produced by those who have solar panels, which it would be unconstitutional.

That is the reason why utility companies want to make constitutional -but adding little nuances- what it is already a right without nuances. They want to extend their monopoly beyond traditional energy.

The end of the world as you know it

If you think the presidential election has driven everybody crazy you will be amazed of the coalitions related to Amendment 1.

Can you imagine Al Gore and the Tea Party agreeing on something? That day has arrived.

Believe it or not, the Tea Party has a branch with green leaves. This environmentalist group named Green Tea Party is against Amendment 1 as is Al Gore.

Though most of the Tea Party followers don’t believe in climate change and don’t trust clean energy, in 2013 a few members of the extreme right wing group, led by Debbie Dooley, supported a proposal to expand solar energy in Georgia. They had conservative reasons whatsoever: Solar energy will open competition, so it will reduce prices and generate a free market dynamic.

Now the green leaf of the Tea Party and the progressive Grupo Sierra are teaming up in an unexpected alliance against amendment 1.

Therefore, in this crazy election not everything is about sexual assault accusations, insults, lies, co-partisans attacking each other, people attacking democracy or utility wolves dressed as lambs. We also have good things, like adversaries working together, and yes… we have elections, and no all the countries can say the same, so use your vote with intelligence.

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