TO BEGIN WITH, THE POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE “CONSUMERS FOR SMART SOLAR (CSS)” RAISED $ 21,523,917 TO LOBBY FOR PUTTING AMENDMENT 1 ON THE NOVEMBER 8, 2016 FLORIDA BALLOT.
On the surface, CSS sounds good, as it is a “diverse coalition of diverse business, civic, and faith based organizations working to promote solar energy without sacrificing commonsense consumer protections.” (Source: CSS Website.)
But when you look under the covers as to who has funded CSS, the top donors were:
- Duke Energy: $ 5,737,000
- Florida Power and Light Company: $ 5,495,000
- Tampa Electric Company: $ 3,037347
- Gulf Power Company: 2,124,450
- 60 Plus Association: $ 1,440,000
(Source: BALLOTPEDIA, The Encyclopedia of American Politics)
Surely you are familiar with the top four donors. But who is the 60 Plus Association?
According to FactCheck.org “Between 2009 and 2012, 60 Plus received nearly $16. 7 million from the Center to Protect Patient Rights (now called American Encore), a conservative group with ties to Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch. In 2012 it received nearly $4.6 million from the American Future Fund and $4.1 million from the now defunct TC4 Trust in 2011. American Future Fund and TC4 Trust have been linked to the billionaire Koch brothers, as well.”
In 2014, documents left behind by an attendee at an exclusive “donor seminar” put on by Charles and David Koch (of Koch Industries) revealed that the billionaire brothers count the 60 Plus Association as a part of their massive political network. (Source: Wikipedia)
Surprise! So why would these fossil fuel giants be supporting an amendment establishing consumer’s rights to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use.
Here is the ballot question:
No. 1 Constitutional Amendment Article X, Section 29 · Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
“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.”
Sounds good. Why wouldn’t you vote “yes,” as many people will because they have been deceived.
For one, with regard to the first sentence, under the Florida Constitution, consumers already have a legal right to own or lease solar panels, install them, and generate their own power.
This is the first step in an effort to confuse voters because it creates the false impression that electric customers DO NOT have the legal right allowing people to own or lease solar panels, install them, and generate their own power. They already do.
According to Ennis Leon Jacobs, Jr. Florida Bar 0714682, “not only do consumers have the right to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use, but consumers also have the right to provide any excess electricity (produced from solar panels) back to the utility’s grid through a net metering policy.
Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed any electricity they do not use back into the grid. It is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy owners for the electricity they add to the grid.”
Now to the second sentence of the Amendment: “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.”
This is where it gets interesting.
Since customers who do not choose to install are not required to “subsidize” the cost of utilities for the expense of net-metering (costs of backup power and electrical grid access), those costs would be charged back to those consumers who chose to utilize and install solar systems.
Once again, according to Attorney Jacobs, “nowhere in the Amendment title (or the summary) is the voter accurately informed that they will have a fee imposed on them if they exercise their ‘solar energy choice’ right, or otherwise have favorable net metering policies for solar customers weakened that will directly impact their financial interest should they want to exercise the purported ‘right.’”
In essence, according to Bradley Marshall, Florida Bar No. 0098008, “If passed by the voters, the utility-sponsored amendment would be a constitutional endorsement that rooftop solar users could end up paying higher utility bills than other customers. Solar users could end up paying twice as much as other customers pay to buy power from the utilities. This utility-sponsored amendment pretends to be pro-solar but is actually a disguised attempt to derail rooftop solar in Florida.” (Emphasis added).
Large utilities are looking to discourage consumers to utilize and install solar systems. George Cavros, an attorney in Ft. Lauderdale, FL said: “Restrictions and discriminatory fees would make solar more expensive, limit the expansion of solar, and hurt customers by denying them a cost effective way to lower power bills – particularly impacting underserved communities.”
On March 31, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to allow the cleverly worded Amendment 1 to be placed on the November 8, 2016 ballot.
In the first sentence of Justice Barbara Pariente’s dissenting opinion, she said: “Let the pro-solar energy customers beware.” The amendment is “masquerading as a pro-solar energy solar initiative.”
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente