The battle over the future of solar power is dividing Florida’s city officials.
From Coral Gables to St. Petersburg, local officials are at odds over a decision by the organization that represents more than 400 municipal governments — the Florida League of Cities — to file a legal brief urging the Florida Supreme Court to reject putting the proposed Solar Choice amendment on the November 2016 ballot.
The amendment would allow homeowners and businesses to sell up to two megawatts of solar power and prohibit the state from erecting any barriers to a rooftop solar market in Florida. The citizen petition drive is being led by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and backed by dozens of interest groups, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Christian Coalition and the League of Women Voters.
But the measure is opposed by the state’s private and municipally-owned utility companies, which pay franchise fees in order to be the exclusive source of electric power in cities across the state. They argue that if third parties are allowed to sell solar power, many of their franchise agreements would be void.
The escalating fight offers a glimpse of the divisive debate that is headed to Florida — one of only four states without distributed solar power as an option for consumers — if the ballot language for the Solar Choice amendment is approved by the Florida Supreme Court. The court will hear arguments in September and will decide whether to put the citizens’ initiative before voters.