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Insider ‘Outs’ Misleading Strategy Behind Florida’s Solar Amendment 1

October 21, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

On November 8, Florida voters will either support or reject Amendment 1, which would add a section to the Sunshine State’s constitution giving residents the right to own or lease solar energy equipment for personal use; while also enacting constitutional protection for any state or local law ensuring that residents who do not produce solar energy can abstain from subsidizing its production.

Now, the policy director of a think tank supported by Florida’s largest electric utilities has admitted at a conference what opponents already had claimed for months: The industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment, according to an October 18 report in the Miami Herald.

Sal Nuzzo, a vice president at the James Madison Institute, a free-market brain trust based in Tallahassee, detailed the strategy used by the state’s largest utilities to create and finance Amendment 1 at the 2016 State Energy/Environmental Leadership Summit in Nashville earlier this month.

Nuzzo called the amendment, which has received more than $21 million in utility industry financing, “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they [pro-solar interests] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road,” according to an audio recording of the event supplied to the Herald.

He said, however, that the glass is half full. “To the degree that we can use a little bit of political jiu-jitsu and take what they’re kind of pinning us on and use it to our benefit either in policy, in legislation, or in constitutional referendums — if that’s the direction you want to take — use the language of promoting solar, and kind of, kind of put in these protections for consumers that choose not to install rooftop.”

The comments underscore the claims made by opponents to Amendment 1 on the November ballot that the utility-backed political committee, Consumers for Smart Solar, was formed to undercut attempts to allow third-party sales of rooftop solar by leaving voters with the impression that their rival amendment will expand solar generation in Florida.

Spokesperson for Consumers for Smart Solar, Sarah Bascom, however, contradicted Nuzzo’s claims and told the Miami Herald this week that “Consumers for Smart Solar did not engage or hire or ask James Madison Institute to do research regarding the effort.”

On the other hand, the opposing group, Floridians for Solar Choice,  claims that the amendment attempts to convince voters that it is pro-solar when it “paves the way for barriers that would penalize solar customers” and adds to the state Constitution “the false assumption that solar customers are ‘subsidized’ by non-solar customers.”

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