‘Simply unbelievable’: Net metering bill advances, sponsor cautions solar industry to ‘recalibrate’ business model
Let the sunshine: Rooftop solar is popular with Floridians.

Solar panels on rooftops in California
The bill's sponsors rejected proposals to conduct a study that would help determine if changes are needed.

The House advanced legislation critics say will have a “chilling effect” on the residential solar energy industry in Florida while shooting down proposals that could help determine whether the bills are necessary.

The measure (HB 741) aims to end subsidies its sponsors said would overburden non-solar customers through a process known as net metering. Under net metering, Florida’s electric utilities are mandated to buy back “banked” energy stored by homes that gather more energy than they produce at the retail rate. That energy is added to the utility’s grid and can be redistributed to non-solar customers.

The Senate has a companion measure (SB 1024).

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Jennifer Bradley, and Rep. Lawrence McClure, both Republicans, argued net metering causes non-solar customers to subsidize the solar customers. But critics — mostly Democrats, but also Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Brandes — argued the bills have one glaring flaw: there’s no evidence to suggest such a subsidy exists or is burdening non-solar customers.

HB 741 was passed by the full House Wednesday and reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Rules Tuesday.

Sen. Gary Farmer was in disbelief the changes are being pushed. He, along with other critics in the House and Senate, said ending cost-saving incentives will make solar an option only for the wealthy. Florida’s 14-year-old residential solar industry only accounts for 1% of the consumer energy market in a state that prides itself on an abundance of sunshine.

“We’re not only the third-largest state, we are the Sunshine State. And there is something ironically wrong about the fact that we lag so far behind in solar power production in the Sunshine State,” Farmer said. “The fact that there is no study or vetted data to establish the veracity of these supposed costs is just simply unbelievable to me.”

Solar energy is a completely renewable energy resource that has been found to reduce the effects of climate change and global warming. It’s also a growing industry in the state.

A recent study from advocacy group Conservatives for Clean Energy shows the solar industry adds 40,000 jobs; $18.3 billion in economic impact; and $3.2 billion in household income for its workforce. That study also showed solar adds $10.6 billion to the state’s gross domestic product.

Rooftop solar customers make a minimum payment to the utility, but then don’t have to purchase energy. That means electric utilities aren’t seeing profits from those homes. Instead, they sometimes wind up having to pay those customers for energy. With the advancement of technology and tax incentives among other driving factors, residential solar is expected to grow more rapidly in coming years than it has in the last decade.

Supporters of the bill said there might not be a burden now on non-solar customers now, but that the burden will come as the industry grows, as utilities would be forced to pass costs to consumers.

“I think it’s not often in this building that we get to be prescriptive,” McClure said. “We see something out in the future that we know is going to be significant and perhaps something we would like to avoid, but prepare for and plan for.”

Bradley echoed that sentiment in the Senate.

“We need to end up in a place where our solar households aren’t subsidized by non-solar Floridians,” she said. “But we need to do it in a way that’s thoughtful. The bill protects our non-solar homes by setting us on a glide path, because we know where we’re headed.”

But while utilities are mandated to purchase excess solar energy, they are not required to, in turn, charge their own customers. It’s up to the utility to determine how that cost is mitigated as energy independence from traditional utilities becomes more viable.

Lobby disclosure forms show the bills are being backed by Florida’s largest electric utilities including Florida Power & Light and the Tampa Electric Company. McClure said he understood the bill’s passing means the entire solar industry in Florida would have to change its business model to survive, but said he believed the changes would help it in the long run.

“They’re going to have to adjust,” McClure said. “They’re going to have to recalibrate their business model in order to be successful in the state of Florida.”

Even the bill’s critics agreed solar customers shouldn’t be subsidized by non-solar customers. They said the state should determine if that’s an issue and study how to cure any potential subsidies.

During the bill’s second reading in the House, representatives Anna V. Eskamani and Yvonne Hayes Hinson offered amendments that would have commissioned a study on the effects of net metering before the state changes its policies. McClure successfully requested those amendments be rejected on the grounds that study will happen and prove that his assertion is the correct one. But the study would occur after the changes become law.

“For those that don’t believe there’s a subsidy, you shouldn’t fear the study that questions if there’s a subsidy,” McClure argued. “You think there’s no subsidy. That’s presumably good news for you. I think what we all know is that there is a subsidy and that’s why we don’t want the (Public Service Commission) to study a zero-subsidy.”

The bill doesn’t end net metering all at once. It instead establishes a “glide path” by which current solar customers would be locked into current rates for 20 years, along with anyone who switches to solar by Jan. 1, 2023.

McClure said the bill would benefit low-income customers who could be overburdened by rate increases and seniors on a fixed income. However, solar advocates, like Lindsay Cross with Florida Conservation Voters, said changing the current rate structure would price out low- and middle-income Floridians who could benefit in the long run from energy independence.

“Without renewable energy goals and a pathway for everyday Floridians to be part of the solution in a way that is fiscally viable, it’s like putting a kiddie Band-Aid on an open, gaping wound,” Cross said. “Each roof that is unadorned with solar is an untapped resource that we should be using to its full potential.”

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected]


17 comments

  • Arley Smude

    March 4, 2022 at 10:42 am

    Excellent article. Thank you for covering this.

  • Cliff Tamplin

    March 4, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    Great, let the big greedy inefficient utilities control solar for their own benefit. Just what Putin wants! Every hour we delay installing solar on every roof in Florida is more money to the corrupt Russian regime.

  • Power Company Employee

    March 5, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    This bill is an affront to the state. It’s energy company smoke and mirrors. They want to build solar because they can charge the rate payers for the solar sites. What’s not obvious is that the solar sites are all remotely located. So the power company also gets to charge the rate payer for the new transmission substations and hundreds of miles of transmission lines needed to support these new sites. If solar power is generated in the metro areas, where power is consumed, then less tranmission capitol projects are needed.

    The very act of net metering is saving consumers money. Residential olar power peaks during the middle of the day and then uses power at night. The power company has to run more expensive units during the day and then ha to shut them down at night. This is all an added cost, in both fuel and operations, and all that added cost is passed on through to the rate payers.

    This bill is bad for the rate payers, the environment, the solar industry, the state. They can argue it back and forth and do studies, but at the end of the day the only people that definitely benefit are the power companies. They’re going green!$!$

    • Power Company Employee

      March 5, 2022 at 12:12 pm

      Also note that Bradley’s district is where both Duke and FPL are installing solar sites….

      • Dave Stites

        March 7, 2022 at 9:30 am

        10+ GWatts of highly efficient solar farms by 2030 that will benefit MOST of Florida’s utility customers 😎 with lower cost solar energy than rooftop solar can provide to a small fraction with suitable roofs and means to afford their own systems. A pitiful 0.5% penetration over the last 16 years.
        We’ll never get meaningful solar at that rate, especially after the 22% FETax credit goes away in Dec 2023.
        THAT’s why our INVESTOR OWNED, STATE REGULATED utilities are stepping up to do it…for their shareholders and customers…just like Starbucks. Get over it utility haters. Are you burning candles at night?
        https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/state-policy-aggressive-utility-plans-to-make-florida-top-southeast-solar-state-65740797
        Residential rooftop solar has run its course…it’s been a drop in the bucket or more like a flash in the pan. 😠
        PS: I’ve owned a 9.5kW west facing 30 panel system with Duke net-metering since 2015. Paid $18k cash after 30% FETC and Break-even payback at end of 2023. 13kW Generac ($3,000) on nat gas is my whole house backup source for infrequent outtages. No $$$$$$ batteries for me.

        • jeremy

          March 9, 2022 at 5:24 am

          if you’re talking about the solar farms by Dade city, you need to research. That energy is going to Georgia, not Florida. 🙁

          I have a generator as well… What you didn’t mention about the costs is the burn rate for powering a generator. for a house load, you will be burning 3lbs of propane an hr. Yeah, real numbers!!! Most of us looked at a generator for Hurricane type disasters where we would be down for days, up to a week.

          Generator cost, simple math.
          Propane cost in Florida is $4.95 gallon as of 3/8/2022
          1gallon of propane = 4.24lbs

          Using a generator and a 250-gallon tank, which holds approximately 200 gallons of propane, then a full tank would last you around three to four days. ( been there, done that).

          At a cost of $4.95 a gallon it quickly comes to $1,000 to completely fill a 250Gallon tank. and the generator will have disruptions in power (even if only for 1-10 seconds) and has mechanical parts to fail. 2-3 Hurricane type power outages over 10 years and the cost becomes simular just not all up front like a battery.

          In reality, if you have the money… it’s no comparison, a battery is a superior Business continuity/Disaster Recovery solution than Generator.

          • Dave Stites

            March 9, 2022 at 11:33 am

            My Generac runs on nat gas, variable speed with load. Can cycle it nanually or automaticallly. Longest outtage 5 days several years ago. Otherwise a few hours/year for brief outtages and monthly self test. I’d need two to three Powerwalls to equal its output so my heat-pump can power up. Not worth the cost. Same for e-vehicles for the limited miles I drive.
            AND a few dark stormy days during a prolonged outtage YOUR batteries are DEAD!
            Utility solar long overdue, is underway all over FL and will dominate in a few years. Rooftop would have to grow 10X to 25X to equal it. Never happen, given its paltry growth when Fed & FL rebates were at their max.
            https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/state-policy-aggressive-utility-plans-to-make-florida-top-southeast-solar-state-65740797
            Floridians can only afford to buy $$$$$$$$ polluting stink-pot boats instead, go figure.

        • Jeremy

          March 9, 2022 at 5:27 am

          How the hell do you get Putin injected into this. He does not care about solar here. The power generated by the electric companies in Florida are from the following sources:
          76.1% natural gas
          13.5% Nuclear
          4.6% Coal
          5.8% non-hydroelectric renewables

          And, none of those come from RUSSIA. Stop trying to make this geo-political. this is the U.S. Energy Lobby shifting the influence of power from oil to power grid.

          The big issue is what the energy company, politicians, or this paper has not said. Maybe some have not connected the dots yet but…. let me spell it out.

          As the push for all automotive companies goes to EV for consumers in the next 10 years the reliance on oil will drop below 7mil barrels a day and the pendulum will shift towards electric power plants for everything. The power companies will start to say they need upgrades, maintenance, etc. to keep up with the now Millions of EV cars that fill our roads. and most of these cars will consume close to as much electricity as their house does which will be putting a huge burden on the power grid.

          This will be enough cause for the power companies to start raising everyone’s rated KwH prices. those with solar, and those without.

          If it does put stress on our power grid as some have suggested, then we could be faced with a few scenarios.
          1. the power companies start doing massive upgrades to plants, transmission lines, sub-stations very soon, and they will raise rates.
          2. they don’t react, and we have rolling power outages like California did for 20 years with massive disruption to our lives
          3. they ration electrical usage like we do our water in a drought.

          I am a constitutional conservative. Not a “greenie” by any means. I do care about my environment, but I also understand the world has been under a constant phase of climate change from its beginning existence. I believe in the efficiency of effort, saving money, as well as independence. I have recently purchased a Tesla and am in the contract for solar and battery backups. After reading this article I am going to investigate the “SWAT” report of going off the grid completely for energy independence.

          • Dave Stites

            March 9, 2022 at 11:46 am

            Bottom line, NUCLEAR with its 95% capacity factor (vs rooftop 10% to 20% and utility solar’s 25% CFs) will be built to handle the majority of our nation’s power needs. Especially north of the sun belt.
            And breeder reactors
            will grow more fuel than they consume for the next 2,000 years.

  • Joshua

    March 5, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    It sounds like the power companies just want more control. I know with the new battery technology out there. Some homes if they bought enough battery storage they could be grid free completly, now of course DUKE and FPL and Tampa Electric dont want that to happen. The thing that is crazy to me is if all buildings that qualified for solar power had it the electric utilites would be less relevent. People would be free from the monoply. I am in solar and it is hared enough espicaly in some parts of Florida willing to consider it. This will make it harder on the consumer and on the people marketing and selling it

  • Chris

    March 6, 2022 at 7:15 pm

    Let’s get our voices heard and let the Governor know we need to keep solar industry in Florida. Here’s a petition I started and will hopefully be shared
    https://www.change.org/SaveFLsolar

    • John Cicale

      March 10, 2022 at 6:23 pm

      good job Chris! Thanks! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

  • Dave Stites

    March 6, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    Utility Scale Solar is where it’s going, especially after the FETax Credit ends for residential solar after 2023 and a gigaWatt of utility solar farms from Duke, Nextera/FPL and Emera/TECO come on line with 20% to 30% of Florida’s electricity by 2025.
    That’s 25+ times more than Fed subsidized residential rooftop solar achieved in its 16 years of pitiful growth in Florida, especially after state subsidies/rebates ended in 2015.
    Economics and efficiency favor utility scale solar hands down.
    Utility solar’s installed cost of $0.90/W is 1/4th or less that of residential rooftop solar.
    Levellized Cost of Energy (LCOE) from solar farms with single-axis tracking bifacial panels will be $0.015/kWhr or 1/5th to 1/25th that of fixed tilt residential rooftop systems. And generating efficiency being 35% higher will achieve 35% capacity factors vs 10% to 20% for residential rooftop systens.
    Utility solar’s grid capacity will reach its maximum managable share of energy that must be safely and reliably balanced by other utility generatng sources 24/7. At that point, utilities may not want to allow additional small variable sources to add to its power management complexity and residential rooftop solar will be allowed to die off at its end of life, 20 to 30 years from now.
    Rooftop solar served its purpose bu creating a solar energy market. But it was too limited to significantly penetrate Florida’s residential customer base largely due to our low cost of energy and fairly flat rates since 2008.
    Affordability and a large number of retirees who’d not likely outlive their solar investments rejected the federally subsidized solar deals.
    The good news is, FL-PSC will see to it that future electric rates with solar in the mix will drop fmsognifocanyly for everyone as our grid’s share of solar tops out in the next 3 to 5 years.
    Batteries for matching grid loads with solar will also become the norm at utility scale, but remain too costly for most to consider for residential backup power.
    That’s my take, speaking from my 2015 $27,000 9.5kW west facing solar system and a $3,000 13kW natural gas fired Generac generator to keep my beer cold when the grid is down. 😜

    • Power Company Employee

      March 7, 2022 at 10:33 am

      residential solar adoption has been limited by lack of state and power company support. Why would we double down on that?

      Solar adoption has increased significantly, and rates are going up. Why? Because every solar site built requires millions of dollars in transmission to support it. Batteries provide no net ROE, and way behind solar technologically. Solar comes and goes with cloud cover. Imagine losing a gigawatt of power generation because a cloud blows over? Keep your $12,000 generac tuned up because you’ll need it more.

      • Dave Stites

        March 7, 2022 at 11:54 am

        FYI – My 13kW Generac cost $3k installed w 200Amp X-fer switch in 2015,, a promotion w 5yr P&L warranty. At 80, I’m still able to service it myself, a $300+/yr savings.
        Power outtages are short and infrequent, mostly old tree limbs taking wires down. Very long storm outtages (weeks +) likely will see us evacuating to a happy place until utilities are restored assuming there’s a home to return to.
        Clouds only cause smooth manageable disruptions across large 500 to 600 acre solar farms so source variations can be balanced with existing peaker plants and some battery banks or other energy storage means (pumping, flywheels, steam from CSP). Unlike clouds shading a puny 600 sq-ft of rooftop array forcing the inverter into auto shut-down when they’re dense enough. That’s why the large solar farms are necessary for utility scale generation.
        And for days long stormy weather associated with hurricanes, most battery backed households will be recharging from the grid and NOT their solar, or their e-F-150s. Surprise!!
        PV Solar farms are proven technology for five years and more in over a dozen states in the south and southwest.
        Folks are no longer going to invest Ten$ of Thou$and$ in rooftop solar especially after Duke’s Clean Energy Connection (CEC) kicks in this April and scoops up a Lion’s Share of customers seeking to invest in their solar farms with no equipment to buy, install or maintain on their roofs…even if they were solar suitable and they could afford it.
        CEC opens the market to everyone with a Duke meter, and includes beneficial low income qualifying provisions too. Plus it can move with you.
        Brilliant! Just wish it was available in 2015 when I bought into rooftop solar.

  • Bill Young

    March 7, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    There are government solar research center that look at implementation of solar, what advances and hinders, adopation of solar, Their studies have found that solar with net metering helps lowers the cost of electricity to the comsumer and the utility. This effort is by utility exectives and stock holders to make more profit. Remember, they are a monopoly and think they should be the only player on the street.

  • Dave Stites

    March 7, 2022 at 6:12 pm

    Rooftop Solar’s paltry 0.5% to 1% penetration is akin to raising RS-1 rates a measly 0.00065 to .00135-cents/kWh, with 18% utility taxes and fees included to offset the lost revenue.1,000 kWhr monthly usage only adds 65-cents to $1.30 to the average electric bill.
    What gets politicians, lobbyists and lawyers in TallyHassel drooling is multiplying it by 9-million non-solar residential customers so they can skim a few millions for themselves while claiming they’re saving “everyone” else Million$ from all those (0.5% to 1%) bad rooftop solar richies.
    It’s just like a scamming/skimming Class Action Suit where nobody wins, but everybody who paid gets pennies on the dollar after legal eagles get their cut in exhorbitant fees.
    Rooftop solar and net-metering will go away on its own due to utility scale solar that benefits everyone 25X more significantly with real lower costs of generation and lower rates than rooftop solar will ever provide.
    And…ALL customers won’t have to do a thing to get those savings with SIGNIFICANT environmental (CO2 reduction) benefits.
    1% rooftop doesn’t cut it, even if it doubles in the next 16 years. Just let net-metering die off naturally.

Comments are closed.


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