As we continue our solid growth in solar usage all across the Sunshine State, it’s well past time for Florida lawmakers to get rid of what The Wall Street Journal calls “welfare for the wealthy” and make solar accessible for all of us. Because of outdated state laws called “net-metering,” now high-income Floridians who invest and solar to generate renewable energy for their homes are enjoying the financial benefits.
When solar was just getting started, net metering made sense. No, it does not. We are all paying for it, including the less fortunate, while more well-off Floridians reap the rewards.
A proposal is moving through the Florida Legislature to update Florida’s net metering laws and reduce this unfair subsidy.
Senate Bill 1024 by Sen. Jennifer Bradley and House Bill 741 by Rep. Lawrence McClure will bring balance back to utility bills so that all customers are equitably contributing to the grid’s infrastructure and have an equal opportunity to utilize solar energy.
Under Florida’s current net metering laws, utilities compensate rooftop solar customers for the excess energy they produce at retail rates. Retail rates can be up to 10 times higher than what a utility would pay for the same energy from other sources. In addition, customers with rooftop solar avoid much of the costs we all pay to support the power grid.
Maintaining a strong and resilient power grid is critically important to reliability, especially in a state prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters. Even customers with rooftop solar depend on the grid to provide power when their solar panels cannot, such as during the night, during storms and when their demand for energy exceeds the supply their solar panels can produce.
When utilities pay more for power from rooftop solar homes and those same customers are not contributing to the grid’s infrastructure needs, costs are shifted to other customers. As a result, low-income households who can’t afford to invest in rooftop solar end up paying the lion’s share to maintain reliability.
Florida has made great strides in renewable energy production. Through investments in large-scale solar generation, we are now fourth in the nation for total solar power capacity. Florida continues to increase our portfolio of renewable energy sources, which benefits all customers, not just the wealthy.
And more is on the way.
As residential solar power becomes less expensive to install and continues to grow in popularity, it’s essential we modernize net metering incentives and ensure all customers are treated equitably by the state’s power grid.
The proposed legislation directs the Florida Public Service Commission to review the current incentive structure to ensure all costs are fairly allocated, and that the wealthy don’t utilize solar under a system where the rest of us pay more. And to be fair the proposal also grandfathers in customers who have already invested in rooftop solar so they can maintain their current benefits for a decade.
It’s time to end Florida’s “welfare for the wealthy” and get serious about expanding our use of solar power. I am grateful for SB 1024 by Bradley and HB 741 by McClure, which will bring balance back to consumers’ utility bills and ensure all customers pay equitably for reliability.
Kevin Doyle is the Florida Executive Director for Consumer Energy Alliance, which seeks to ensure American families and businesses have access to reliable, affordable, and environmentally sound resources.