Florida defeats solar power measure critics called misleading

Florida defeats solar power measure critics called misleading
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Florida voters are projected to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that opponents say would have hurt the rooftop solar power industry.

Amendment 1 would have given Floridians a constitutional right to use rooftop solar power and mandated that government agencies protect customers both involved and not involved with rooftop solar.

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But the solar industry and environmentalists charged that the amendment was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, misleadingly designed by electric utilities to restrict rooftop solar.

They say it could have led to restrictions in the ability of Floridians to sell power they generate to utilities, and to have third-party companies install solar panels.

The amendment needed 60 percent of the votes to pass.

The Solar Energy Industries Association cheered the vote.

“By voting to stop an amendment funded by the state’s wealthy utilities, Floridians made clear that they care about their rights — their property rights, their right to competitive markets and their right to go solar,” Tom Kimbis, interim president of the solar group, said in a statement.

“The resounding rejection of Amendment 1 should send a message across not just Florida but all states not to curtail solar choice.”

The measure came as electric utilities around the country are trying to crack down on rooftop solar, which often represents both competition and an expense to them.

Solar advocates around the country see Florida’s fight as a bellwether that could have set a precedent for utilities fighting rooftop solar nationally.

Nevada, Hawaii and numerous other states have had high-profile fights recently over the payments that utilities sometimes give to customers with rooftop solar.

But Florida’s case is unique because of what opponents said was the misleading nature of the amendment.

A split state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the amendment is not misleading and can go on the ballot.

But in September, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times obtained a recording of a supporter of the rooftop solar measure who said that rooftop solar opponents need to use “political jiu-jitsu” to win over voters by presenting their case as pro-solar.