Client News

Orlando Sentinel: Q&A: Shining light on solar amendments

Friday, August 05, 2016

By Gray Rohrer

TALLAHASSEE – Voters this year are being offered the chance to approve two solar amendments, with major implications for businesses and the future of how Florida consumes energy.

Like the first sunbeam rudely bursting through the window in the morning, the differing messages of the business groups, environmentalists, solar advocates and utilities that are pushing the measures can leave voters confused and disgruntled. So here’s a primer to help you as you head to the voting booth:

Q: How many solar amendments are there? What will they do?

A: There are two.

Amendment 4, which would provide a tax break for companies that get solar equipment for business purposes, goes before voters Aug. 30. Amendment 1, which essentially inserts Florida’s current energy laws regarding solar in the state constitution, is on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Q: What groups are pushing Amendment 4? Who is opposed?

A: A broad coalition of groups from both sides of the political spectrum are backing the amendment. Business groups such as the Florida Retail Federation and Florida Chamber of Commerce, who see the benefit of tax breaks, environmental groups such as The Nature Conservancy and Florida Conservation Voters who want more clean energy alternatives and activist groups such as the League of Women Voters of Florida are all support Amendment 4.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who sponsored the bill that put the measure on the ballot, joked that he “brought the Baptists and the bootleggers” together to support it. He also said the major utility companies have remained neutral on the amendment.

Q: How many businesses would this affect?

A: It’s unclear how many businesses would buy solar equipment and get the tax break on the tangible personal property tax. But Florida Retail Federation president Randy Miller said his members are pushing him to support the measure and want solar as an option.

Q: If Amendment 4 passes, how soon would companies buying solar see tax relief?

A: The amendment requires the Legislature to pass an enacting bill for the measure to take effect. Lawmakers won’t meet again until next year, and even if a bill is signed into law the effective date might not be until July 1, 2018, business group leaders said.

Still, backers insist it’s important for the Sunshine State to do something to promote solar energy to catch up with other states adding solar to their alternative energy portfolios.

“We’ve got to push Florida forward to enhance our solar ability,” said Richard Turner, a lobbyist for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Q: Who’s supporting Amendment 1?

A: Florida’s main utilities are behind the funding for Consumers for Smart Solar, the political committee that helped put Amendment 1 on the ballot.

The group has raised more than $16 million through July 29, thanks largely to contributions from Duke Energy, Florida Power and Light, Gulf Power Co. and Tampa Electric Co. It has spent $15.6 million so far.

Some environmental groups and alternative energy advocates are opposed to the amendment, saying putting current energy policy in the constitution makes it harder to adapt new energy technology to state law.

Q: Why is this needed?

A: Supporters of the amendment say it will provide stability in the marketplace and protect consumers from fly-by-night solar peddlers.

“Our amendment does not prohibit third-party solar electric in Florida,” said Screven Watson, board member of Consumers for Smart Solar. “It just says that no matter what approach to solar energy policy Florida takes now or in the future, that government will retain its authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.”

Q: How much support do the amendments need to pass?

A: In Florida, constitutional amendments require 60 percent voter approval to become law. or (850) 222-5564

Link to article:

« Return to News