Ballot initiative could help Sunshine State live up to its name

Florida ballot issu could make the Sunshine State live up to its name

The boldest rooftop solar ballot measure in the country was just green-lighted in one of the most unlikely states in the nation.

The sunshine state has hardly lived up to its name as the rooftop solar industry has blossomed and boomed all over the country, leaving Florida and its conservative southern neighbors in the dusky shadows.

Poor solar policies have resulted in stilted solar industry growth in Florida over recent years. But proposed legislation could dramatically change all of that. A decade from now people could believe Florida got its nickname because of all the rooftop solar panels if they forget the state’s history.

If an aggressive proposed ballot measure to deregulate utilities specifically so that those with rooftop solar installations can sell power directly to their friends and neighbors passes, utilities will not be able to stand in the way of solar industry growth.

Utilities in other states have been fighting against net metering regulations that require them to credit solar customers at the retail rate for excess power they feed onto the grid.

If consumers can sell power directly to each other, it eliminates that defense. It also makes the market for rooftop solar power limitless and allows for the creation of dozens of new clean power entrepreneurs.

The proposed legislation was born from a strange marriage between Florida’s conservative Tea Party and Libertarians and Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Floridians for Solar Choice instigated the deregulation movement in part because they believe the free market should reign over electricity generation and sales and partly for environmental reasons.

The state’s supreme court approved the ballot initiative. Now activists have to gather signatures. With more than 200,000 already, they need another 600,000-plus in order to get the issue on the April ballot. If the issue makes it in front of regular Florida voters, it will have to have 60 percent of the votes in order to pass.