Utility-backed solar power amendment raises nearly $1.5 million


  • Photo by Global Panorama via Flickr

Consumers for Smart Solar, the political committee advocating for one of two rival solar power amendments for the 2016 ballot, has collected almost $1.5 million, mainly from Florida’s electric companies, the Florida News Service reports.

The committee submitted 68,792 valid signatures to the state Division of Elections by Friday, which is enough to trigger a court review of the language for the proposed ballot.

Back in September, we wrote about how Consumers for Smart Solar claimed to be diverse coalition of business, civic and faith-based organizations that wants to allow Floridians with solar equipment on their property to sell energy to power companies, and “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.” The committee asserts that it’s protecting people from solar power opportunists by proposing an amendment that gives people the “right to solar.” Except, as some people have pointed out, we already have the right to have solar.

They’ve also spent quite a bit of time talking smack about a rival committee, Floridians for Solar Choice, who they deemed “shady.” Floridians for Solar Choice, which is trying to pass an amendment that would make it legal for businesses to generate and sell up to 2 megawatts of solar power to adjacent properties, has said the rival amendment is a political ploy to confuse people and maintain the status quo.

“Currently, homeowners may install rooftop solar panels on their homes but cannot sell excess electricity they generate back to the grid,” the Miami Herald reports. “Electricity companies generate solar power using green fields and can sell it to whomever they wish.”  

If you follow the money, it’s pretty clear who’s who. Consumers for Smart Solar has received its funding from 44 contributors, including: Duke Energy, for $160,000; Florida Power & Light for $175,000; Gulf Power for $180,000; and Tampa Electric, for $175,000. Another $150,000 was provided by the 60 Plus Association, an organization supported by the Koch brothers, and $200,000 from Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a PAC which lists its registered agent as Foley & Lardner law firm partner and business lawyer Charles V. Hedrick.

The committee’s chairman, Ryan D. Tyson, and treasurer, Robert D. McRae, are both officers with the business-lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida, and Tyson told the Florida News Service that both organizations have separate missions.

Floridians for Solar Choice has received nearly $1.3 million, mostly from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a non-partisan group pushing for energy reform. It’s collected 183,677 valid signatures so far.

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