Rep. Lawrence McClure has made good on his promise to create a step-down process to end net metering in Florida. But critics argue the bill still would be devastating to the rooftop solar industry.
Under current law, solar panel owners who have excess energy generated by the panels can sell it back to the utilities at the retail rate their utility charges other customers, a process known as net metering. The bill (HB 741), carried by Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure and as passed Monday by the House Commerce Committee, would eventually require a cheaper wholesale price be charged to the utilities, similar to changes Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley made to her version (SB 1024) earlier this month.
The original legislation would have immediately scrapped net metering and instead would have asked homeowners to sell the electricity at the rate it would charge the utility company to procure the electricity from its usual sources, zeroing out costs for the utility company. Rooftop solar owners, environmental advocates and solar panel installers argue eliminating net metering before rooftop solar is well established could kill the growing business.
After passing the Commerce Committee mostly along party lines, House lawmakers are now ready to consider the proposal on the floor. However, the Senate bill awaits its final hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.
McClure told the committee he appreciated the stakeholders who have worked with him to strike a balance in the bill since its first committee stop, when he promised a substantive change to the legislation.
“I feel very good that rooftop solar in the state of Florida will be here to stay and continue to prosper,” McClure said.
The House bill would begin kicking in at the start of 2023, when panel owners would start getting 75% credit. That would fall to 60% in 2026 and 50% in 2027, and then drop to the market rate in 2029.
That pace varies from the Senate version, which starts at 75% in 2024 before going to 50% in 2026 and dropping to the market rate in 2028.
Both versions would also grandfather in solar panel owners for 20 years.
However, even with the “glide path,” members of the public who testified on the bill overwhelmingly said the bill would kill the industry. Ultimately, the proposal would raise the energy bills of rooftop solar users and cramp the industry.
“If this bill passes, I’m going to have to experience layoffs, the likes of which I’ve never seen in my 17-year career in this industry,” said Nathan Traynor of Castaways Energy.
Aventura Democratic Rep. Joseph Geller called the compromise amendment an improvement and voted “yes,” but he still supported alternatives, including directly subsidizing the solar industry.
“Let’s have it be paid by all the people in this state, particularly the ones who can afford it, not put this on the backs of poor people who have enough problems putting food on the table and paying the bills as it is without having to have them pay to subsidize solar.”
A survey released last week by Mason-Dixon showed 84% of Florida voters support net metering.
The legislation came under additional scrutiny in December after the Miami Herald and Floodlight reported that FPL drafted and encouraged state lawmakers to file legislation constricting the state’s growing rooftop solar industry, one in a series of news stories tracking claims of FPL’s involvement in the political process.
On Monday, when McClure’s bill passed its second committee stop, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried also issued her opposition to the bill in a statement ahead of the meeting.
“This bill would effectively pull the plug on the competitive solar market in our state and the 40,000 jobs it supports. It’s bad for consumers, bad for the environment and bad for our economy,” Fried said. “In the Sunshine State, we should be doing everything we can to support the solar industry, not handicapping it with bad bills like this.”