A Florida Senate committee on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment for the November ballot that would give tax breaks to businesses that install solar panels, but it is unlikely to come before voters: The chairman of a powerful House committee believes the solar industry isn’t ready for it.
“I just don’t see the need to continue to expand the incentives and underwriting of solar,’’ said Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee. “Solar is coming a long way and eventually it’s going to be able to stand on its own two feet. But right now it doesn’t.”
Proponents of the bill, however, say that Workman’s attitude is more proof of the clout of Florida’s electric utilities, which view rooftop solar as the beginning of the end of their monopoly control over Florida’s energy market.
John Porter, the former mayor of Cape Canaveral and the managing partner of the solar energy company CleanFootprint, said Workman and others in the Legislature oppose the amendment because voters would likely approve it.
“Nothing polls over 90 percent [among voters], but solar does,’’ he said. “If the people of Florida are given a choice in this issue they are going to vote yes. . . . They understand how valuable it is to their air, their water and to the future of Florida.
“Instead, everybody here is really interested in keeping the status quo in place, which is the stranglehold of these large utilities,” he said. “It’s really almost criminal and we need to make a change.”
Two bills in play, SB 917 and HB 825, would place an amendment on the 2014 ballot that would rewrite the state constitution to allow for an ad valorem tax exemption when businesses install renewable energy devices, such as solar panels, as long as the company consumes the electricity itself. Story here.