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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 4 years ago

Amendment 1 would protect consumers

Opponents of Amendment 1 don't want you to buy your own solar panels and generate your own electricity.
by: Dick Batchelor Guest Contributor

As divided as politics has become, it is rare when an issue unites us. But that's what Amendment 1 on Florida's November ballot does.

In fact, the latest independent polls show that more than 80% of Republicans, Democrats and independents support Amendment 1.

Here's the actual ballot language of Amendment 1, so you can compare what the amendment actually says with the claims made by our opponents:

Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice: This amendment establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.

As you can see, Amendment 1 is clear and straightforward. When the Florida Supreme Court approved Amendment 1 for the ballot, the majority ruling stated, “... we find that the title and summary clearly and unambiguously inform the voter ...”

Opponents of Amendment 1 claim it does things it doesn't do, or that it does nothing at all. Their claims are disproved by a plain reading of Amendment 1's straightforward language, by the Supreme Court's approval of it and by an extensive review of it by state policy and financial experts.

So why do they oppose Amendment 1? Simply stated, they don't want you to buy your own solar panels and generate your own electricity. Why? Because they want you to buy solar electricity from them.

The Amendment 1 opponents include companies whose business model is to lock consumers into 20-year contracts to put their solar equipment on your roof and sell you the electricity from it.

Here's the other catch: The current published price for one of the leading companies, Solar City, is nearly 50% higher than what Floridians pay for electricity today, plus its contract includes an automatic 2.9% cost increase — double what Floridians normally face.

The companies that oppose Amendment 1 also want to be immune from the consumer protection rules that all other energy providers must obey. These companies are the likely funders of groups opposing Amendment 1, but we will never know because unlike our campaign, which discloses its donors, the campaign opposing
Amendment 1 receives nearly 90% of its funding from a political organization that refuses to disclose its contributors.

But one thing we don't have to wonder about is which side of this argument is right. We can simply look to Arizona, which took our opponents' approach. Consumers were defrauded. Seniors lost retirement savings. Home sellers lost money selling their homes because their buyers didn't want to take over their solar contracts. Just do a Google search of “Arizona solar fraud” or “Arizona solar bankruptcy,” and you'll get the picture.

Solar is so important to our future that we don't want it to get a black eye as it did in Arizona.

Here are the important ways Amendment 1 does solar right:

Amendment 1 will safeguard consumer rights, by ensuring that consumers will always have the right to generate their own solar electricity. And contrary to our opponents' claims, under Amendment 1, solar customers can still sell any excess electricity they generate back onto the grid.

Amendment 1 does not preclude or hinder any approach to solar. It merely ensures that whatever approach to solar Florida takes, government will be able to protect consumers from scams, rip-offs and unsafe solar installations.

Amendment 1 ensures consumer fairness by allowing government to retain its authority to stop unfair subsidies.

We all agree that Florida needs more solar. It is so important to our energy future that it must be done the right way, a way that safeguards consumer rights, provides consumer protection and ensures energy fairness to all Floridians, whether they choose solar or not. Join me in voting yes on Amendment 1 — for the sun.

Dick Batchelor, co-chairman of Consumers for Smart Solar, is a former chairman of the Florida House Energy Committee and former chairman of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission.

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