OPINION: Solar power in the Sunshine State may be pushed into the shade

Florida House Bill 741 removes important incentives for solar power, and they need to be reinstated. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/OIST.JP

With a nickname like the Sunshine State, Florida should be taking full advantage of solar power. House Bill (HB) 741, however, would discourage this option for many people.

HB 741, a bill proposing the reduction of net metering, was passed March 2 and is on its way to be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

DeSantis should veto this bill. It will harm Florida’s solar power industry which in turn hurts people and the environment.

Net metering is the process by which excess energy generated by solar panels is put back into the electric grid, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). When the household uses more energy than the solar panel generates, they can use the credit to offset the cost. 

This allows residents to reduce their electric bills and promotes the production of clean and sustainable energy. 

Under this bill, net metering will be phased out by 2029, removing one of the largest incentives for Florida residents to go solar.

“Net metering has helped over 100,000 Florida homeowners make that choice, and utilities are now banking on the state government to strip those rights away and pad their monopoly hold on electricity,” Will Giese, southeast regional director of SEIA, said in a March 7 press release

Florida ranks third in the country when it comes to solar energy, with 4.35% of the state’s energy coming from solar power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association in 2021. While the state is doing well in comparison to others, there is a lot of room for growth and Floridians should be aiming to increase that number. 

Florida should be promoting solar power, not deterring people from it. If net metering is removed, the use of solar energy will drop significantly. 

That is exactly what happened when Peace River Electric Co-op reduced net metering rates for Sarasota and Manatee counties in 2017. When these rates dropped, solar installation in the area nearly came to a halt, as reported in a Feb. 8 article by the Miami Herald Editorial Board. 

This is not an issue exclusive to solar panel owners. It will also affect the 40,426 Floridians whose jobs are supported by the rooftop solar industry, as stated in a 2021 report by the Washington Economics Group Inc.

If the solar power industry drops, many of these people will lose their jobs. 

Large electric companies like Florida Power & Light (FPL) claim this bill is to protect those who don’t use solar power. 

“Opponents of rooftop solar claim net metering allows customers to offset their monthly bill to such an extent that it causes non-solar customers to have to pick up a greater share of the cost,” as stated in a 2021 report by Florida SEIA.

This has been proven to be false in a 2014 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab that found any price differences are negligible. 

What the bill would do, however, is increase electric companies’ profit. With less people using solar panels, they will be getting more from their electric bills. 

As FPL’s website states, “When you generate electricity from your solar array for your home or business, it reduces the amount of energy you purchase from FPL.”

DeSantis should do what is best for Florida residents and veto this bill, instead of giving in to greedy companies. Legislators claim this bill will remove a financial burden from non-solar energy users. This “burden” has been proven to be nearly nonexistent and is not worth risking the future of this important industry.

Florida legislators are basing their support of this bill on the logic provided by large companies who benefit from its passing rather than looking at the actual impact it would have on people and the environment.