Republican Pushes Solar Forward in Florida

In Florida, where regulators recently eliminated solar rebates, there’s a new group pushing for "energy freedom" in the state and it’s led by a Republican.

Tory Perfetti heads Conservatives for Energy Freedom, which is already gathering signatures for a referendum in the 2016 elections. If it passes, it would be a milestone for clean energy because it would allow people who generate solar to sell the electricity to others, avoiding utilities altogether.

"Floridians have a right to choose where their energy comes from," Perfetti told Tampa Bay Times. Giving people a choice is a core conservative principle, and it brought the Tea Party and environmental community together to get solar going in Georgia under the Green Tea Coalition.

The measure would allow business or property owners to produce up to 2 megawatts of solar and sell the power to people at the same or contiguous property. Building owners, for example, could sell electricity to tenants and homeowners could sell to neighbors.

Florida Referendum 2016

Florida law says only utilities can sell electricity – one of five states that bars solar leasing companies like SolarCity from selling electricity – they can only make money (not much) through monthly lease payments for the systems they install. Utilities in Wisconsin and Iowa recently tested the waters on banning solar leasing altogether and failed.  

The political action committee, Floridians for Solar Choice, has been formed to drive the referendum forward and it’s getting support from other local Republican groups, Democrats, the local solar industry and environmental groups.

"I think the people understand that … the power companies have been running the show in Florida for too long," Rep. Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg), told the Times. "I’m very excited and happy they’re doing it."

They need 683,149 signatures to get it on the ballot and then 60% of voters have to say Yes for it to pass as an amendment to the state’s constitution. 

Clearly, there will be lots of pushback from utilities and the usual suspects – ALEC, Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and many other conservative groups who say they are for individual freedom, except when it comes to policies they don’t like.

Debbie Dooley, who was behind the Green Tea Coalition in Georgia, is helping out in Florida and is also looking at Virginia and Wisconsin, with a goal of a national push that challenges utilities’ monopoly on electricity sales.

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