Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to sell the electricity they aren’t using back into the grid. That saves money on electric bills.
But electric companies perceive that they make less money as a result, and they’re not so keen on that. So in Florida, utilities want to roll net metering back — and there’s a hearing about it tomorrow.
Florida’s net metering
Right now, Florida is one of 47 states that has a net metering policy that allows solar homeowners to receive a credit for electricity sent back to the grid. Florida’s policy was initiated by an executive order in 2007 under Governor Charlie Crist and was memorialized in a 2019 Florida statute. The law states:
It is in the public interest to promote the development of renewable energy resources in the state … and innovative technologies.
As the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy explains:
Rooftop solar power provides benefits to the utility’s system that can lower power bills for everyone, such as reducing the fuel burned by the utility to generate its own power and transmission and distribution (grid) benefits. Plus it drives economic development and jobs while making our communities cleaner and more resilient to weather events.
What’s the problem?
In 2016, Florida voters rejected Amendment 1, a utility-backed measure to limit rooftop solar expansion. But big utilities using fossil fuels in Florida are still pushing back, despite the No vote in 2016.
Florida utilities think they and their shareholders are losing out on profit to net metering from solar. In January, according to Mike Morina, the executive director of the Florida Home Partnership, writing in the Tampa Bay Times yesterday, a utility front group called Energy Fairness issued a report claiming that net metering is unfair to ratepayers. Morina writes:
Florida has room for growth on solar; there are fewer than 60,000 net-metered systems in the state. As solar grows, it helps avoid the need to build expensive power plants, making it a win-win for everyone.
But tomorrow, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) — the utilities regulation agency — will hold a workshop to review the status of the state’s net metering rule, which could lead to establishing a rule-making docket in order to rewrite the rule. If the rule was rewritten, it could severely hinder rooftop solar development in one of the sunniest states in the US. It would only take three of the five PSC commissioners to make that negative change happen.
“I don’t live in Florida. Why should I care?” you might be thinking. A couple reasons:
One, Florida has a population of 21.48 million. That’s a lot of people — and a lot of energy consumption and emissions. And that affects not only every American but the entire world. (Florida may be a peninsula, but none of us are an island.) So while I do happen to live in Florida, I’d still be just as concerned about this potential rollback if I lived anywhere else in the world — and I’ve lived a lot of places.
It’s the Sunshine State, for heaven’s sake — it’s currently ranked third among states for producing electricity from solar — and it should be doing everything it can to promote further adoption of solar.
Two, all states should be actively promoting the switch to clean energy. For example, Virginia is requiring its utilities to adopt green energy and holding them accountable with landmark legislation that passed in March. Dominion Energy Virginia must be 100% carbon-free by 2045, and Appalachian Power must be 100% carbon-free by 2050.
If you live in Florida, you should fight this whether you have solar or not. Because eventually, you will, either on your household or through community solar. Fossil fuels are bad for your health, and we don’t need any more respiratory health challenges in a pandemic.
You can watch the PSC workshop on net metering starting at 9:15 a.m. ET on the PSC website here tomorrow, September 17.
And if you’d like to write in and object to net metering rollbacks, click here.
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