A bill winding its way through the Florida legislature that was supposed to assist solar industries in the sunshine state is being criticized as a way for the utility industries to hinder rooftop solar installations.
Legislators supporting the bill say they are trying to assist Florida consumers, but critics say it is a smoke screen for the utilities to do what they were unsuccessful in doing in the last election – impose roadblocks to solar industries. Members of the solar industry warned that a long list of "consumer protections" in the bill will actually serve to keep legitimate companies from doing business in Florida.
The utility industry worked unsuccessfully to pass an amendment last year that would have allowed regulators to impose fees and barriers on rooftop solar installation.
Patrick Altier, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, said items in the new bill are “requiring us to be fortune tellers or bankers.”
In addition to authorizing language that prohibits property appraisers from increasing the taxable value of a home or business because of a solar installation, supporters of the bill added language they say will provide consumer safeguards against "bad actors" in the solar industry.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Ray Rodrigues, said he modeled it off an Arizona law. He acknowledged that there are no problems with solar industry installations today in Florida. However, he said removing the tax barriers will result in "an uptick" in new solar expansion, and "the time to do it is now rather than waiting until consumers are taken advantage of."
Under the bill, any company that installs rooftop solar would be required to file more than 20 financial disclosures relating to their business practices, calculate a customers' energy savings based on future — not past — energy rates, follow new codes and standards, and face new penalties for violations.
In addition, the Florida Public Service Commission would have new power to add rules related to solar safety and performance, in addition to those already in place.Representatives of the solar industry told legislators that safety requirements are already in place, and the Solar Energy Industry Association already requires its members to adhere to best practices and disclosures intended to weed out bad actors and benefit consumers.