Florida is an economic engine for job creation. Our job growth numbers are outperforming the nation thanks to forward-thinking policies by our elected officials — and a key part of that job growth has been Florida’s clean energy industry.
According to a recent study, the rooftop solar industry alone supports more than 40,000 jobs across the state. From installers and manufacturers to engineers and electricians, the solar industry is quite literally supercharging our economy — and those are careers that can’t be outsourced.
That’s why it would be counterproductive to enact policies that would wipe out thousands of those solar jobs.
Unfortunately, one current proposal would do just that by undermining Florida’s existing net metering laws and making it harder for families to choose solar to meet their energy needs.
At the heart of rooftop solar is a state policy called net metering. This allows homeowners to take excess power — anything they produce beyond what their home needs — and trade it back to the grid, in exchange for a one-to-one credit on their own bills. This makes tremendous economic sense: The homeowners save on their power bills, and the utility provider can resell the power for a profit.
Despite the industry’s strong growth in recent years, less than 1% of Floridians have rooftop solar. Those who choose to embrace solar do it for different reasons.
Some want to insulate themselves from rising natural gas costs that have caused utility bills to skyrocket. Many want to make sure they maintain power during a devastating hurricane. Others are eager to embrace the broader benefits of clean energy.
And those who choose to go solar are already subject to minimum bills, connection fees and other charges, so it’s simply a myth that any utility customer pays more because someone down the street has solar panels on their roof.
Regardless of why each family or business owner chooses to embrace solar, the key is that they have the choice. By eliminating net metering, the state would take that choice away from more than 90% of Floridians.
As demand for solar has increased, the industry has appropriately stepped up and staffed up to meet the market.
Moreover, solar is increasingly being embraced by a broader range of Floridians — including lower-income families. In fact, about one-third of net-metered customers for the state’s largest utility have a household income of less than $50,000. These are often seniors or families on fixed incomes who simply want the stability of predictable utility bills.
If net metering is eliminated, it will shift rooftop solar into a luxury only affordable for the wealthy.
That would be a giant step backward, when we should be working to ensure that the free resource of Florida’s sunshine is available for all.
We are still in the early days of solar, but the future is bright and full of opportunities to build a strong clean energy industry that powers our economy and our homes. I urge our state’s leaders to consider the solar homeowners and workers among their constituents and support strong net metering policies that will allow Floridians to enjoy the many benefits of clean energy.
George Riley is the State Director for Conservatives for Clean Energy. He was previously the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Florida.