Solar power amendment failing for lack of understanding

For a few months Florida residents had an interest in our being able to rent out the roofs of our homes to solar energy companies in exchange for the right to generate and sell electricity to the Florida power grid.

But, unlike other constitutional amendments that have met with success at the polls, the leaders of this movement have not been successful in soliciting sufficient funds to pay for the gathering of petition signatures to meet the state’s requirements to get on the ballot.

My opinion: Floridians do not understand the logic behind the proposed amendment. Are there too many more pressing problems on the table: the coming presidential elections, terrorism, stagnant wages, a declining world economy and its effect on our state?

The fact that so many voters in Florida, especially South Florida, live in condominiums and do not have the ability to put panels on their roofs to generate electric and earn extra dollars selling power to the utility companies. And, let’s not forget second homeowners living out of state most of the year.

Floridians for Solar Choice, like almost all citizen amendment petition groups, depend upon professional petition gatherers to hit the streets and gather the 683,149 verifiable petition signatures required by state law to go on the ballot. There are two problems.

First, there are not enough financial contributions to properly fund a professional petition gathering company and keep them on the street. Floridians for Solar Choice contracted with PCI Consulting, a California petition gathering company successful in previous Florida Constitutional amendment campaigns for medical marijuana and conservation. The company claims it currently is, delinquently, owed in excess of $200,000 for services rendered to date and has as of mid-November stopped signature gathering.

The second problem is confusion. Consumers for Smart Solar, a competing amendment movement created and financed by Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy (North Florida, etc.) and other utility companies, has hit TV stations, in addition to being on the street, with expensive ads that sound like they support benefits to the public when in reality the utility companies are advocating the elimination of competition from the public.

The result is the public is, first, in part supporting a group they do not realize is against them and, second just didn’t have the time, energy or interest in looking into the competition between the two petition drives for voter support.

Floridians for Solar Choice says it is going to pay the delinquent bills to the California group and hopes to continue gathering signatures. However, Dec. 31, 2015 was the deadline to have the required 683,149 signatures on file with the state — something that realistically can’t happen. Meanwhile they are trying to collect signatures on their own and hope to be on the 2016 ballot.

If Consumers for Smart Solar are successful and amend the Florida Constitution in November 2016 they will have strengthened its position in the state and the chances of Floridians for Solar Choice getting on the 2018 ballot, and being successful, seems more and more remote.

Florida in one of only five states that prohibit homeowners and owners of commercial real estate from renting out their roofs to solar energy companies, generate electricity and sell it to the power grid (i.e. Florida Power, Duke Energy, etc.). It was the intent of Floridians for Solar Choice to bring Florida in line with the thinking of the majority of the country — a good goal.

Short of a miracle, time and lack of money has hindered a great movement that would have put money in the hands of home and commercial real estate owners and possibly, even more importantly, created a means of generating power in times of emergencies such as a hurricane that could knock out Turkey Point which would take far more time to bring back on line again than to replace roof top panels.

We appriciate your opinion on this column wherther in agreement or dis agreement. Send your comments to (fax number) 305-662-6980 or email to MCMHoldingsInc.com. The opinion expressed in the column are not necessarily those of this newspaper, its editors or publishers


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About the Author

Kenneth Bluh
Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at kbluh@americanbsm.com or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.

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