Florida's Supreme Court justices indicated Monday they are divided over whether or not a utility-backed amendment relating to solar energy is misleading and should be thrown off the ballot.
Environmental advocates argued in oral arguments that the proposal by "Consumers for Smart Solar" is unconstitutionally misleading because it lures voters into thinking it will increase access to rooftop solar when in fact it will reduce solar options.
Proponents, however, defend say the amendment is needed to enshrine the right for people to install solar panels into the state constitution. They deny the proposal is intended to protect the regulated utilities, who control the current solar market, from competition.
"Any person that wants solar should vote for this amendment,'' said Alvin Davis, attorney for the regulated utilities. He warned that rival companies could come to Florida, sell solar panels, go "back to where ever they came from and, when the panels don't work or when the prices aren't fair, you are stuck with it."
But Bob Nabors, attorney for Floridians for Solar Choice, the solar industry-backed organization that started the solar wars, disagreed.
The proposed amendment is titled: "Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice" but it "puts in place the majority of rights that are already here, which creates the false impression to the voter that he's getting something he is not,'' Nabors said.
Consumers for Solar Choice tried and failed to get an amendment on the November ballot that would have prevented legislators and regulators from erecting barriers to homeowners who want to allow a third-party companies to install up to 2 megawatts of solar energy on their homes and businesses and sell it to neighbors.
Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric and Gulf Power joined forced to raise $6.98 million to fund the "Smart Solar" campaign and a counter-offensive to undermine the "Solar Choice" amendment, the pro-alternative energy group failed to get enough signatures by the Feb. 1 deadline. The group has announced it will now attempt to put it on the 2018 ballot.
The utilities, however, continued to pursue their counter amendment, arguing it is a needed to protect the access to solar energy.
But on Monday Justices Peggy Quince, Barbara Pariente and James E.C. Perry were skeptical.