Wyatt Sanders: Why You Should Vote No on Amendment 1

November 7, 2016 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Wyatt Sanders, who has invented solar power applications designed for household use, weighs in on the issues surrounding Amendment 1, and explains why you should vote NO.

If you’re at all concerned about the future of clean energy in Florida, you should vote NO on Amendment 1 this November. You may have---- like many of us, become distracted by the high-profile politics of the presidential race, but please don’t forget your state and county elections. This year we will have had two amendments appear on the ballot to decide the fate of solar in the sunshine state. The first solar amendment which was written by solar power proponents appeared on the September ballot and passed by a modest margin, however now the results of a second amendment co-opted by utilities and power conglomerates remains to be seen.

Amendment 1 will appear on the November 8th ballot after Big Oil and power companies have invested nearly $22 Million into its passing. The amendment is by all means a Trojan horse. One Florida Supreme Court justice said of the amendment: “Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida's major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.” It was intended to be a preemptive measure against a growing, yet infantile solar power insurgency. Knowing full-well that solar power is favorable among voters, the marketing teams behind it dressed it up to look like another pro-solar survey and advocated with groups cleverly named like “Consumers for Smart Solar” and “Yes on 1 for the Sun.” Even if you just read the preamble, or skimmed it you’d think it would help promote solar. The amendment promises to give solar users the state constitutional right to produce solar power, which at first glance might look wonderful, but it’s entirely unnecessary. Such a provision would be no different than also giving everyone the right to breathe air. However in exchange for this pseudo constitutional right to produce solar power the amendment sneaks in a legalese poison pill when it says:  “State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric access to those who do.”

It’s important to understand what subsidies this amendment is referring to. When someone decides to install solar panels on their roof for $15,000, the only way they’ll ever see a return on their investment is in their savings on electricity. Through a system called “net-metering” someone with solar panels exports the extra electricity they create back to the grid for a credit (that’s energy that’s actually helping power other people’s homes). Now consider that if the retail price (what you pay) for electricity is $0.10 per kWh, however selling your solar power back to the grid for $0.10 would actually be considered a subsidy. That’s because that’s the price per kWh with the profit margin, fuel charge, etc. that the utility charges. So for every  kilowatt hour produced by a solar user it might only be valued at half that of the retail rate of electricity at $0.05 per kWh and would mean 30+ years for most solar installations to pay for themselves. If a user’s solar credit is not as much as the cost of energy they use in the day, then that user would still have to pay for the energy imported. This would mean even if a solar user made as much or more energy than their home used in that day, they would still owe the power company for energy used.  If this amendment passed it would further disincentivize consumers from installing solar panels. It’s worth noting that there are only about 250 homes in Jacksonville with solar power.

Despite a very polarized election cycle maybe one of the few things on the ballot this year with bipartisan opposition will be amendment 1. As both democratic, republican, and libertarian groups are against it.

When you head to the polls on November 8th please tell utilities and the Koch brothers that you aren’t falling for their solar power bait and switch by voting NO on Amendment 1.

Wyatt Sanders