State Of Sunshine: A New Day Dawning

October 22nd, 2015

CORAL GABLES — The Florida Supreme Court has cleared the way for voters to decide next year whether residents should be able to generate their own solar power under a ballot initiative to reform the energy market.

Despite being known as the Sunshine State, Florida is one of the few places in the country that does not allow homeowners to purchase energy from third parties, creating a de facto monopoly for state-regulated utilities, with the biggest player, Florida Power & Light, being among them.

Current law locks out competition from nimble solar service providers such as SunEdison and SolarCity that install rooftop solar panels at no cost and then sell back the power generated by its customers to others at a reduced rate.

A coalition of solar proponents on both sides of the political spectrum, who call themselves Floridians for Solar Choice, have been leading the charge to change this situation. By law, the group had to collect more than 68,000 signatures to get a hearing before the state’s highest court and then cross their fingers that the ballot language would be approved by the court, which is what happened today.

But the battle is far from finished. The group must now collect nearly 700,000 signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot. More than 60 percent of eligible voters would then have to vote in favor of it.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has argued against the initiative, claiming local choice already exists in the state’s solar energy market, and has joined with utility companies to back an alternative ballot measure.