by Shyam Allard

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A solar energy amendment will be on the ballot Nov. 8, and its wording has opposition questioning the intentions of utility companies.

The Florida Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use Initiative, also known as Amendment 1, is a pro-solar proposal, according to the Consumers for Smart Solar.

But a particular line in the amendment has many of its critics wondering whether the initiative actually promotes solar as much as it claims.

This line says state and local governments will “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. “

Barry Moline, Executive Director for the Florida Municipal Electric Association, said the main purpose behind this line is to make energy payments fair for everyone.

According to Moline, Florida citizens are on an energy grid. This grid is the web of poles and wires supplying power to everyone, and one third of everyone’s energy bill goes toward the use of this grid.

When a person uses solar, however, that person can power a home during the day, and then transfer any surplus power onto the grid. This surplus energy will make the electricity meter run backwards at the power plant, offsetting the cost of power pulled from the power plant at night when solar energy isn’t available, a phenomenon called “net metering.”

Because customers only have to pay for their “net” energy use, Moline says solar-users often times get the service of the poles and wires at night for free. Amendment 1 will make every customer pay a fixed rate every month for the use of the grid in order to limit the amount of subsidy people who don’t have solar pay to people who do have solar.

Karra Corona, volunteer coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said the idea that “people who have solar panels are being subsidized by people who don’t have solar” is a false impression put out by the utility companies.

“That is there scare tactic,” Corona said.

Corona also said studies show net metering ultimately helps everyone, even non-solar users. The surplus power solar-users create goes back into the grid, and is distributed by the power plant to other customers, thereby providing energy for others.

One of the studies Corona is referring to is by the Brookings Institution. The study says “net metering frequently benefits all ratepayers when all costs and benefits are accounted for.”

Floridians for Solar Choice volunteer Jim Funk said it’s obvious the utility companies are funding Amendment 1 out of greed and to maintain control over Florida’s energy.

“New Jersey actually has more solar power than we do, and we have tremendous potential here in Florida,” Funk said. “It’s very threatening to [the utility companies] them.”

Amendment 1 leads off by saying that all citizens have a right to solar power, making it sound like the Amendment is giving us a right, when, in fact, we already have it.

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