Gov. Ron DeSantis killed a bill Wednesday that would’ve ended net metering in Florida.
The Republican leader’s reasoning: inflation. It marks the second veto of the 2022 Legislative Session.
“Given that the United States is experiencing its worst inflation in 40 years and that consumers have seen steep increases in the price of gas and groceries, as well as escalating bills, the state of Florida should not contribute to the financial crunch that our citizens are experiencing,” DeSantis wrote.
Under net metering, electrical companies must buy back “banked” energy stored by homes at the retail rate. That energy is added to the utility’s grid and redistributed to non-solar customers. The measure — dubbed by critics the “anti-rooftop solar bill” (HB 741) — aimed to end the buyback mandate.
Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani highlighted the advocacy of opponents to the measure after the announcement. Meanwhile, Congressman and Democratic gubernatorial contender Charlie Crist praised the “power of millions of Floridians making their voices heard and demanding lower costs from Tallahassee.”
“As Governor, I’ll always hold big utilities accountable and reject their unjustified rate increases,” Crist said. “We’ve got a plan to see one million solar roofs installed across the Sunshine State during my first term, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure and Sen. Jennifer Bradley are the bill sponsors. The Senate approved the legislation 24-15 last month after the House passed it 83-31.
“This bill is fair,” Bradley told Senators. “It’s a thoughtful glide path to get us to a no subsidy.”
The Legislature established the current system in 2008 to subsidize the nascent solar industry. But critics argued more information was needed on possible impacts before moving forward with Bradley’s proposal.
The bill would have kicked in at the start of 2023 when panel owners will collect a 75% credit. Subsequently, returns would’ve fallen to 60% in 2026, 50% in 2027, and drop to the market rate in 2029. The measure also would have grandfathered in solar panel owners and lessees, allowing them to maintain their entry credit rate for 20 years
Lantana Democratic Sen. Lori Berman said voters indicated their support for subsidizing the rooftop solar industry in 2016, when they shot down a proposed constitutional amendment allowing residents who don’t produce solar energy to abstain from subsidizing it. Like many critics throughout the Session, Berman pointed to Nevada, where the state immediately scrapped net metering in 2015.
“Two years later, their Legislature had to come back and change it because the whole solar industry left Nevada during that time,” Berman said. “I don’t want to see that happen here in our state.”
Despite voting “yes,” New Smyrna Beach Republican Sen. Tom Wright said he was having a hard time casting that vote. He wished the state’s utility commission had been involved in the research assessing whether there was even a need to change the solar industry’s structure.
A recent study from the 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.
A survey released in February by Mason-Dixon showed that 84% of Florida voters support net metering.
In December, the measure came under additional scrutiny 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.
Florida Politics reporter Renzo Downey contributed to this report.