Over the years, the Hispanic community has grown to be a major force within the U.S. economy. In 2015, the Hispanic population in the United States spent $1.3 trillion on consumer products — a number that’s projected to grow to $1.7 trillion by 2020. Over time, Hispanic Americans have developed a strong presence across a broad range of sectors, and Hispanic businesses have made tremendous strides with explosive economic growth.
Today, with 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses throughout the U.S., over 300,000 in the Sunshine State and nearly one-quarter of the population in Florida being Hispanic, it goes without saying that this community is a major driver of the state’s economy.
Yet, current energy policies in place in Florida are requiring many Hispanic business owners and other minority communities to spend a great deal of their paychecks subsidizing the energy choices of others. That’s because net metering policies are forcing small businesses, and hardworking middle and lower class American consumers, to foot the bill for the energy choices of higher income families who are the ones more likely to lease rooftop solar systems. Therefore, it is critical that Amendment 1, or Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Choice, is passed in the state of Florida.
Amendment 1 would place additional rights in the Florida constitution, ensuring that state residents have the right to own and operate solar energy resources, and prevents nonsolar customers from subsidizing those who own or lease rooftop solar systems. It continues to help grow the solar market without negatively impacting low-income and minority communities.
At its core, Amendment 1 encourages the sustainable growth of solar in a way that enacts a fair pricing model and does not allow nonsolar users to incur unnecessary costs.
In the midst of innovative energy solutions and the deployment of new technologies, energy policy must make sense from an economic standpoint in order to yield a reliable and efficient bright energy future for all Americans, despite economic class. Solar subsidies were meant to incentivize early adopters, not to widen the energy divide between those who have the systems and those who do not. We strongly support solar power, along with equitable policies that put the needs of our communities before corporate profits. But, the cost shift created by such subsidies is an ongoing issue of concern for our communities.
A community like ours that contributes economically at such a large degree should not bear the burden of others’ energy bills due to outdated policies. Low-income families — many of which are minorities — spend roughly one-fourth of net income on energy expenses every year. Amendment 1 provides these folks with additional rights when it comes to renewable energy use or nonuse so that not a penny more is unnecessarily spent on the energy consumption of others.
We can proudly say that at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FHCC) we have placed much focus on policy issues such as net metering, as our Hispanic business leaders from across the country work together to identify and discuss the challenges that face the businesses in our community and the Hispanic population as a whole.
Hispanics have made unparalleled contributions across a variety of industries, many of which are particularly evident in the energy industry, and should not be punished by unfair net metering policies that overcompensate for others’ renewable energy use. Amendment 1 would put constitutional rights in place for Hispanics — and all Florida residents — so the solar market can continue to grow without negatively impacting low-income and minority communities.
Pragmatic and equitable answers to energy issues, such as Amendment 1, will result in a more affordable, efficient and secure future for all, and not just a few. It’s simple, those who don’t or can’t afford to choose solar, shouldn’t have to subsidize the energy choices of those who do.
Javier Palomarez is President & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Julio Fuentes is the President & CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce