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Solar savings threatened by Amendment 1, say homeowners

"Sunshine State" ranks just 17th in solar capacity
Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 01, 2016

Florida is known as the "Sunshine State" but ranks just 17th in the nation in solar capacity.

What gives?

Well the state government hasn't encouraged the industry to grow with financial incentives, and a new proposal before Florida voters this Fall actually threatens to hamper the industry even further.

"Amendment 1" as it's known on the ballot would make solar panel ownership a constitutional right, but it would also allow utility companies to penalize solar customers with more fees.

Consumers for Smart Solar is the Political Action Committee largely funded, not by consumers, but by Florida's utility companies, is putting money behind an effort to pass this Amendment to Florida's Constitution.

Consumers for Smart Solar claims that the Amendment protects people who don't use solar panels by "ensuring that our public officials maintain their ability to stop unfair subsidies" and preventing "those who don't choose solar into subsidizing the energy choices of others."

Consumer activists say the Amendment is an effort by big utility companies to control the energy market in Florida under the pretext of consumer protection and allegedly promoting individual rights and environmentalism.

In the meantime, some Florida residents are finding solar panels to be a cost-effective way to reduce energy costs long-term.

"I'm saving a good 10 to 20 dollars per month from my normal utility bill and that savings is going to my pocket along with paying for my own solar panels," explains Roland Conwell to ABC Action News.

Conwell has solar panels on two sides of his Lutz home, which, after a 30% federal tax rebate, costs him $119 per month. It'll take him 20 years to pay it all off. But as he sees it, he's saving money per month and he's adding value to his home

"You either pay yourself or you're constantly paying the utility company," says Conwell, who gets 78% of his home's energy from his new solar panels. When the panels are one day paid off, he'll be paying for just 22% of the energy his home uses, and the rest will come free from the sun.

But Amendment 1 could be a threat to Conwell's current economic benefit.

"They want to be able to assess fees for those solar panel residents who give back into the solar grid," explains John McCourt of Solar Source IT.

McCourt is a solar science advocate and industry consultant who acts as a concierge for homeowners to find a local solar panel plan that's right for them.

He sees Amendment 1 as a threat to the spread of solar power for regular homeowners like Conwell.

"They don't want you generating power," says McCourt of utility companies in Florida. "They want you to use their power which they can charge you for."