Environmental

Solar Advocates Push for 2016 Ballot Initiative to Save Clean Energy From Utilities

Over the past year, Florida's struggling solar industry has been knocked a number of blows that could seriously hurt the chances of making clean energy common. Most of those hits have come from the state's utilities, which -- despite claims as being pro-sun power -- have continually obstructed the private industry. Now, a group of strange political bedfellows has joined together to push a 2016 ballot initiative that would free up the sun-power market.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, a petition is circulating for a possible 2016 ballot initiative. The proposal would allow entities that capture solar energy to sell that energy to consumers.

Under the plan, businesses or property owners who produce 2 megawatts or less of solar power could sell that energy off without having to go through the utilities. Basically, the proposal allows private solar producers and consumers to cut out the big companies.

As the Times points out, this project is being fronted by a Tampa-based Republican group -- Conservatives for Energy Freedom -- but also is likely to win support from more granola lefty supporters as well. The group's website explains, "We believe in free market energy choice and opening up the market for solar and other decentralized energy."

The Department of State OK'd the petition in late December. Moving ahead, organizers will have to pocket 683,149 signatures before February 1, 2016, to land the proposal on the ballot. If it gets to that stage, 60 percent would pass the measure on Election Day.

Of course, that's a big if. The Florida utilities have steadily tried to corner the solar market over the past year, boxing out private solar companies from participating in the Public Service Commission hearings last summer while also knee-capping the state's solar options. They are likely not going to take too kindly to a proposal that would edge them out of some of the market. You can probably expect this will spark a public relations battle.

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson