Stormy Days Coming for Solar Power in the Sunshine State
All-powerful for-profit utilities have apparently bribed/persuaded Florida officials to crush what they consider to be a developing threat - solar power
There was a time in America when big business and the politicians closest to them at least pretended to be patriotic, to put the interests of the nation and its citizens first. The latest abomination from Republicans in Florida shows that those days are long gone.
In the face of a climate change crisis that threatens our nation, civilization itself, and even human life on Earth, a corrupt profit motive is all-consuming for the GOP.
Reflecting a growing trend among for-profit utility
parasites companies, Florida Power and Light (FPL) has apparently bribed incentivized Republicans in the Florida House and Senate to put forward HB4, which recently passed both bodies and is waiting for Governor DeSantis’ signature.
The bill will increase the cost to consumers in The Sunshine State who want to put solar panels on their homes’ roofs, radically cutting the “net metering” rate at which the utility must buy back power from those solar panels, all while putting open-ended fees on solarized homeowners.
While the climate emergency is worldwide, it’s hitting Florida particularly hard with rising sea levels already forcing cities to spend millions to keep the ocean out. Within a few decades it’s expected to go from “expensive” to “crisis” in Florida (and much of the rest of coastal America).
Buildings being the third largest source of greenhouse gasses (behind vehicles and power plants) in the US, you’d think the Florida legislature would want to incentivize people to install solar panels on their homes. After all, it’s The Sunshine State!
Not only that, 84% of Florida voters support utilities buying back excess electricity through the existing net metering program, with 76% of the voters supporting net metering being Republicans (and 94% Democrats).
But Republican political corruption is so severe in Florida that FPL actually wrote the bill itself; the legislators they own didn’t have to do any work other than slap their names on it and bring it to the floor.
Although rooftop solar represents less than 1 percent of the power currently generated in Florida, the rooftop solar industry already employs over 40,000 people and accounts for $18 billion in annual revenue to the state.
If those numbers were to double or triple, it would still represent a negligible loss of sales for FPL while cutting emissions, creating tens of thousands of good jobs, and tens of billions in economic activity for the state.
Until the solar industry is large enough to start giving Florida Republicans money by the shovelful, though, don’t expect them to care. And it’s the same with Republicans nationwide; the party has been sucking up fossil fuel dollars for so long they don’t know what they’d do without them.
A recent analysis found “109 representatives and 30 senators” in the 117th US Congress “who refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change.”
This group of Republican lawmakers, the study adds, “have received more than $61 million in lifetime contributions from the coal, oil, and gas industries.”
And that doesn’t begin to count their support from a well-funded climate-change-denying network of 1500 rightwing radio stations, hundreds of rightwing television stations, three rightwing cable TV networks, national and state-wide “think tanks,” and hundreds of “conservative” publications from newspapers to magazines to websites.
After a similar piece of legislation was passed in Nevada, the solar industry there collapsed, basically handing most new electricity generation back to NV Energy, the state’s monopoly power supplier. A similar effort is underway in California, again backed by for-profit utilities and fossil fuel billionaires.
Generating electricity through solar panels is now the cheapest form of power generation in the United States, and more and more homeowners are jumping at the chance to end forever utility outages during bad weather and ever-increasing electric bills.
Unless Democrats can pass federal standards that would preempt these state efforts, expect more and more of this nation’s for-profit utilities to have “conversations” with their wholly-owned Republican state legislators. After all, ever since five corrupt Republican appointees on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery in their Citizens United decision, this is the way the GOP rolls.
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This is disgusting just like everything else the Republicans do where they take bribes, and it hurts people of lesser means. Homes and their maintenance costs mean everything to people busting their ass to make a living. These individual solar projects have to pencil-out over a period of years to make it available to an average income person. So once again, the Republicans can't stick up for anyone but their donors.
That Nevada article explains it's even worse than that, because the utilities involved are willing to take the excess electricity produced and sell it as if THEY generated. This legislation creates a free resource for THEM, not the people of their state.
My hope is that, with the electric vehicle they will buy and with proper storage units that will work with your solar system, there will be little excess electricity to sell into the grid. That's a worthy goal without this latest stick-it-to the little people plan.
Big solar projects will not be held back in either Florida or Nevada. A few are there already with many more in the works. This is the future. The sun will not go to waste there. But as usual the Republicans will make sure someone rich will get richer while they screw the working people.
I lived in Naples Floridumb until 1995, but moved when the water got too deep. I built a new house and looked at solar very seriously because FPL was going to charge me $15,000 to bring in electricity.
I could have gone off grid for an extra $15,000, but I traveled internationally up to 300 days a year for work. Although solar is pretty reliable, if it did fail, my wife would have to fly a service technician in from a blue state, adding a lot of delay and cost.
I ended up going back to FPL and found a new guy who ran the wires for free. He had 25 years with the company, and both being Electrical Engineers, we chatted. He said FPL wasn't really opposed to solar, the problem was they had built nuclear power plants, and they had to keep those plant fully loaded. He admitted that solar was 1/3 the price for electricity, but they had nuclear contracts that didn't allow them to "go solar".
FPL was quite advanced when I built in 1990. I granted them permission to remotely enable or disable breakers, and they gave me $25 a month to do so. Since I was at the end of a long line, I generated kVARS so they never shut anything off.
Today, I have a solar home. It cost me $16,000 to install the plant. I only have a $20 electric bill, just a connection charge to my utility. I could add a battery pack for $10,000 and go off grid, but why bother? It's dead easy to install the new stuff. My panels have micro inverters and put out 120VAC. My electronics box handles feeding them back to the utility, feeding me from the utility, or I can install a battery pack and it just plugs in. The vendor remotely monitors all my equipment in case of failure, and I have a lifetime warranty. Simple.
My local engineer said the utility is going 100% wind and solar. The new electronics make it easy. At first they were worried about lack of control causing safety issues, But the new electronics take care of that. He said the only reason they hadn't gone 100% solar and wind was because they had a 30 year coal purchase contract on their coal power plant, and had to buy the coal regardless. Recently, they announced that they had sold the coal fired power plant and were going 100% solar and wind.
The way they are doing it here is a battery bank capable of a week of power will be installed at every substation. They will use homeowner rooftop solar that is already installed, and will install solar and wind at every substation they can, or nearby if not on site. They are excited to have their cost of electricity drop to zero.