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Florida Solar Choice Facts

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has attacked the proposed ballot initiative to open solar markets in Florida, and is trying to discredit the coalition of conservatives and clean energy groups that support the initiative. AFP has confused the sole purpose of the initiative—expanding customer choice and free commerce in solar—with unrelated policy issues that no conservative group has endorsed in Florida. AFP’s claims are inaccurate, misleading, and short on facts. The ballot initiative does one thing, and one thing only: it removes a government-created barrier to customers’ right to buy solar energy, so solar can compete in the market against other forms of energy.

The Florida government’s current policy is to make commerce in solar energy illegal, which puts solar energy at an unfair disadvantage by denying customers the right to buy solar products available in most state markets.

This ballot initiative has nothing to do with subsidies or handouts for the solar industry.

This initiative will not create any subsidies, incentives, mandates, or tax breaks for solar companies, solar customers, or anyone else. There is nothing in the language to suggest otherwise. The initiative doesn’t require the State of Florida to spend any taxpayer dollars to prop up solar energy. AFP is confusing this initiative with other issues that aren’t relevant to this ballot initiative.

What you see is what you get.

The ballot language is very straightforward and cannot be changed without beginning the process of collecting signatures all over again. There is no opportunity to add any subsidies, mandates, or anything else before Floridians vote on it in 2016.

The initiative is a first step toward opening up free markets for all energy in Florida.

Coalition groups decided to choose one regulatory barrier for the ballot initiative, so voters can understand it easily and decide whether or not to support it based on this one issue. There are other barriers to free markets in energy not addressed by this initiative, and conservatives in the coalition believe that we should eliminate those as well. But we have to start somewhere, and opening markets for solar energy in the Sunshine State is a good first step.

The ballot initiative will not give solar energy an advantage over other types of energy.

It simply legalizes free-market options for financing or purchasing solar energy that would otherwise remain illegal in Florida. There is currently no free market in energy, and the government-protected monopolies have all the advantage to make choices for customers about what types of energy they are required to pay for.

Solar must prove to be cost-competitive in the market for customers to choose to buy it.

The cost of solar is plummeting across the country, and is now price-competitive with utility power in many states. The claims that solar is too expensive aren’t supported by recent facts. And if it does prove to be too expensive, customers don’t have to buy it. Floridians should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they can save money on their power bill with solar, without the state telling them they can’t.

Letting people voluntarily pay for their own solar energy won’t raise anyone else’s rates.

AFP’s argument is the same as saying anyone who decides to save money by buying a more efficient refrigerator or A/C system will raise rates on other customers. Utilities use this as a scare tactic, but states from Mississippi to Maine have studied the question of whether solar forces other customers to pay more, and they concluded that other customers are getting a net benefit, not paying a subsidy.

AFP argued in 2013 that more solar would lead to higher rates and blackouts in Georgia, and they were proved wrong.

Solar proved to be cheaper than the utility’s energy costs over time. An all-Republican PSC and the utility itself both concluded that expanding solar will not increase rates one penny, and will actually put “downward pressure” on rates. Georgia customers are saving money with solar energy.

The statement that “there aren’t regulatory barriers in place blocking solar” is simply false.

The government gives utilities the exclusive right to sell any energy to customers in their territories. The government has ruled that right excludes companies from offering customers an option to pay for energy from solar panels without paying the up-front costs required to buy the panels themselves, an option that is popular with customers in other states. This ballot initiative removes that regulatory barrier.

AFP cherry-picks language from the ballot initiative to misrepresent its purpose.

AFP suggests the initiative is intended to promote the solar industry. But anyone who reads the full language in context can see it promotes customers, not the industry, and does so by removing market barriers for customers. AFP takes its excerpt from the following section, which makes the true purpose clear:

PURPOSE AND INTENT. It shall be the policy of the state to encourage and promote local small-scale solar-generated electricity production and to enhance the availability of solar power to customers. This section is intended to accomplish this purpose by limiting and preventing regulatory and economic barriers that discourage the supply of electricity generated from solar energy sources to customers who consume the electricity at the same or a contiguous property as the site of the solar electricity production.
Including legal language like “encourage and promote” is common for this type of constitutional amendment, to make the broader intent of the amendment clear, so voters can understand it and legislators and regulators know they shouldn’t create new versions of the same barriers in the future. It also changes the government’s current policy of discouraging and obstructing solar commerce.

Free-market conservatives are leading the coalition that supports the ballot initiative.

Tory Perfetti is the Chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, which includes Conservatives for Energy Freedom, Christian Coalition, Florida Libertarian Party, Florida Republican Liberty Caucus, and The Tea Party Network. All these groups have judged the facts on their own and determined the initiative is consistent with conservative principles. It’s wrong for AFP to suggest these conservatives are being duped and can’t see “the real story” on their own, or that they’re letting Tom Steyer and radical environmentalists “take over the conservative grassroots.” Conservatives should hear from all sides and decide for themselves what the real story is.

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