Inflation is the worst it has been in 40 years. We are all feeling the effects. Seniors on fixed incomes are especially taking the brunt of this economic punch. The Florida Legislature is considering an important bill that could provide some relief for at least one essential monthly payment — our utility bills.
Reducing hidden costs for those without solar panels on their homes would make utility bills lower and fairer for millions of Florida ratepayers, including seniors on fixed incomes.
Let’s clear up a few common misconceptions off the bat:
No one disputes solar is a wonderful renewable energy source. It will play a growing role in energy moving forward and have positive environmental benefits.
Changing Florida’s net metering regulations does not mean eliminating net metering, shutting off the power of the sun, putting people out of work, or making solar panels available only to the rich.
Put simply, this is a fundamental issue of fairness. Homes without solar should not pay higher electric bills because of homes with solar.
The proposed changes to net metering do not end net metering. In fact, current home solar users will be grandfathered into the existing net metering system for 10 years. However, moving forward, new home solar systems will get reimbursed in a fairer way that accounts for the shared costs of using the electric grid.
Advocates for the status quo say the costs paid by homes without solar are low. I have got news for them. Living on a fixed income means seniors do not have an endless bank account from which to draw. Costs add up every month on our bills, and eventually, the checkbook runs dry. As home solar installations increase, so too, will the electricity bills of homeowners without solar.
Every penny counts for our seniors, particularly as the costs for other essential goods and services such as groceries, gas, insurance, and prescription drugs continue to soar.
The power of the Sun is free but installing a system to utilize that power is not. Paying hidden costs for solar is especially frustrating because solar remains very expensive to install for most Floridians, let alone fixed-income seniors. Not to mention solar is a long-term investment that does not necessarily make sense for seniors, given the panels’ long service span. Installing solar can make it more expensive and difficult to insure our homes or sell them.
The proposed legislation offers a fair solution for homes with and without solar panels. The rules of the game will not change for those who have already gone solar. But reasonable changes to home solar reimbursement rates will curb the growth of hidden costs for everyone else, helping to save money on our electric bills.
If this legislation passes, the sun will still shine, homes with solar will still be credited for the power they generate, the environment will benefit, and almost every single Florida utility customer will pay less for their power. It is a win-win seniors can fully support.
John Grant, a former state Representative and state Senator, is an estate-planning attorney and a member of the National Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. He has spent much of his career working on behalf of seniors. Grant continues that advocacy work by heading Seniors Across America and continues speaking up for our elderly population.