Net metering bill passes first panel, but tweaks could come
Don’t be surprised to see Tesla solar panels popping up across the Sunshine State very soon.

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Proponents and critics are split on whether it would help or harm low-income Floridians.

A Senate panel meeting Tuesday gave a glimpse at the first food fight of the 2022 Session, as the Senate Regulated Industries Committee gave its timid approval to legislation addressing solar panels.

Despite apprehension from senators on both sides of the aisle, the committee voted 6-2 to advance a bill (SB 1024) that would lower the utility savings for Floridians using rooftop solar panels. The measure, carried by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley, would start reducing how much utility companies pay consumers when the consumers produce more electricity than they use.

Despite the successful vote, public opposition to the measure has pushed some lawmakers to take a wait-and-see approach to the bill.

Proponents say the measure is necessary because the solar industry has grown to the point that it’s starting to cost those without solar panels. But critics argue the bill would squash the burgeoning industry, a viewpoint that’s growing after recent reporting that representatives of Florida Power and Light, the nation’s largest utility company, wrote the bill.

Under the current process, known as net metering, utility companies pay customers for excess energy at a rate equal to what they would charge the customers for using that amount. But in the new system, customers would sell excess energy at the rate it would cost the company to acquire that power from another source.

Net metering customers would also pay the full cost of service. However, those who have already gone solar would be grandfathered into the new payout formula for 10 years.

Limiting net metering would remove incentives for lower-income Floridians to go solar, St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson suggested.

“We need solar,” Rouson told the committee. “I’m worried about the impact to the low-income, rural and minority communities.”

But Bradley asserted that lower-income Floridians can’t buy into rooftop solar, meaning they disproportionately pay for fees that are comped for solar users.

Based on the industry’s growth, Bradley told the committee it’s not a matter of if, but when, the time to shift to a new net metering model will be necessary.

“Even the folks in this room that I’ve spoken with recognize that a redesign is coming,” Bradley said. “That cost shift is going to reach a point where it’s unsustainable for folks.”

Around 30 members of the public, many of whom represented solar companies, expressed their opinion on the bill. Most who spoke did so in opposition to the bill, but a handful of speakers favored the measure.

Joe Magro, director of Titan Solar Power, was the first of several to speak against the bill. He said the bill only supports the monopolies that run the state’s major power companies while leaving behind those who have already invested in solar.

“The 10-year grandfathering does little for them,” Magro said. “That is like a token of gratitude.”

And while critics say the bill would slow the solar industry’s growth, proponents say it would reduce the price to go solar in the long run.

While Rouson voted in favor of the bill in committee, he told Bradley he would not vote in favor for it on the Senate floor unless it received changes, like by delaying the bill’s implementation until the industry grows larger. Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper similarly implored Bradley to work with stakeholders to find a compromise or else he might oppose it later despite voting yes on Tuesday.

Hooper also sits on the Senate Community Affairs Committee, which is slated to hear the bill next.

Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure’s version of the bill (HB 741) still awaits its first of three hearings.

Last week, Florida Power and Light launched a webpage dedicated to attacking the Miami Herald — specifically Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas — for its “biased” reporting on proposed rooftop solar legislation.

FPL’s 1,000-word retort accuses Klas of a “historically anti-utility bias” and is complete with a timeline that dissects its interactions with the Herald since the paper published its initial story about the power company’s involvement in writing the bill.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


9 comments

  • THOMAS OBRIEN

    January 13, 2022 at 6:16 pm

    I’m a retired Firefighter and not wealthy. Knowing that FPL constantly increases it’s rate we made a financial decision hoping to help us during our retirement. So last year I spent almost $40,000 on a solar package for my home. We were counting on 25+ years to recoup that investment. I will never recoup anywhere near that over the ten years that this bill allows for. I understand that some sort of changes need to be made but please do not “throw us under the bus to benefit FPL.

    Reply

  • Skip Ellis

    January 14, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    Last year after much research, we decided to go all solar including batteries. We took out a 20 year loan and the numbers make sense under the current net metering agreement. With the new proposal we will never break even.
    This is similar to buying a car and then half way through paying it off, your payment is doubled. Not fair!

    Reply

  • Kathy Venrooy

    January 15, 2022 at 11:09 am

    The fact that FPL wrote this bill and then handed it to Sen. Bradley to pass, stinks to high heaven. This bill would screw those who have already invested in solar and hamstring the growing solar industry in FL. The “Sunshine State” should be the leader in solar power, not still bowing to the current energy monopolies.

    Reply

  • Harry Lamb

    January 15, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Nothing but another group of large utilities strangling anything that might threaten their monopoly or profit margin. Pretty low to try to disguise this as “helping the poor.”

    Reply

  • Kenneth Quinn

    January 15, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    Florida Power and Light writes up their own bill to increase their profit and then get their puppets in the government to pass it for them. The citizens in this country have observed this process over and over for 100 years and then they wonder why every person in the country distrusts the government. It is ingrained into our psyche because of outright betrayal like the current display here. It is incorporated in movies over and over because it is so common. The average person is thrown under the FPL bus. It doesn’t matter how many letters are written, it can’t compete with what FPL is giving them.

    Reply

  • Edmund McGuigan

    January 15, 2022 at 10:46 pm

    It’s quite hard to form an opinion on this without some hard details.
    I can provide some facts for the current situation. Florida regulation effectively make it non viable to install a rooftop solar system of greater capacity than 10kW AC. This is because a larger system is classed as being a “Tier 2 Provider” and the state requires the house owner to take out a million dollar liability insurance policy. The pretext is that such a system presents a danger to FP&L employees and equipment. In reality, the solar systems have features that prevent the danger so this is an anti-competitive measure. A 10kW system will not generate excess electricity, beyond a home’s consumption for most single family homes. A small home doesn’t have enough roof space to locate a 10kW system so the regulation is harmful to the owners of larger homes with bigger roofs to place a larger solar array but also a bigger electrical consumption. So FP&L are really restricting wealthier people in larger homes, not allowing them to generate as much energy as the home uses.

    The article tends to suggest that rates will be cut for electricity fed to the grid in excess of what is fed back from the grid to the home. Over a day, a house will tend to feed the grid when the sun is up and then be fed from the grid from sun down to sun up. The problem seems to be for people who expected to make money selling excess generation to FP&L at a retail rate. FP&L want to be allowed to only pay them wholesale. I guess the big question is the timeframe over which this is applied. If it is over a calendar year, then I don’t see it to be that unreasonable. I wouldn’t like to find that the excess I generated in the summer didn’t count against my consumption during a period of higher of use of grid power.

    Reply

  • Steve Carras

    January 18, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    Former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a cogent argument (NY Times Opinion 1/17/22) for retaining incentives for homeowners to install solar. Senators in Florida would do well to read this piece before voting on the current plan. A redesign that helps Florida’s lower-income and rural residents participate in the solar energy movement rather than hurt early adopters with what Schwarzenegger rightly calls a “solar tax” is the only sensible solution.

    Reply

  • Fran Coghlan

    January 24, 2022 at 7:42 am

    Do NOT alter the current method of full credit for the power we generate to a method where we would pay the full retail cost of the power we used and because the new plan would only be reduced by a small credit for the “avoided cost” to utility of the power we generated. Not good for home owners that purchased/leased solar to save money. Greedy utility companies always trying to squeeze more money from us.

    Reply

  • Carl Wernicke

    January 24, 2022 at 9:39 am

    To be clear, net metering is not about making money by selling excess power to the grid. You get retail only until what you buy (typically at night and cloudy days) matches what you sell; after that, you get only the wholesale rate (and the utility sells that to other customers at retail). Net metering allows a one for one exchange UP TO a net of zero. The benefit to the homeowner is in generating the power he/she uses, not in selling excess power to the grid for a profit.

    Reply

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