Solar Energy: Who's Footing the Bill?

Ella York - Teen Aspect - June 14th, 2022
 

Dubbed the ‘Sunshine State,’ Florida’s nickname really begins to ring true as we start to enter the summer season. With temperatures reaching as high as 90 degrees in the upcoming week, it’s easy to wish that the sun would chill out, pun intended. However, after this year’s legislative session, that boiling heat might end up rather beneficial to many Florida residents.


After such a contentious session, it’s hard to point out many decisive victories for anyone; however, I believe the residents of Florida were the victors in regard to the Solar Energy Net Metering Bill. Governor DeSantis shocked everyone when he vetoed the bill, which had been heavily pushed for by FPL, the state’s leading provider for utilities.


Now, with all the legal jargon used in drafting bills, it can often be difficult to understand exactly what a bill is saying. However, the main goal of the bill is to get rid of what is referred to as ‘net metering.’ Net metering is when people with houses that run on solar power can sell any excess power back to companies like FPL at the same rate they would have paid for said energy (i).


This practice seems fairly black and white; it makes sense and seems to be entirely reasonable.


Which is why DeSantis’ veto came as a relief to many Floridians.


See, despite the seemingly cut-and-dry matters of the bill, it managed to pass through both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The only question is, why?


It might take a little bit of digging, but there is a clear explanation for this success.


It’s important to note that this bill was mainly pushed by FPL, and not by another company.


Lobbyists, more often than not, get a bad rep. That’s nothing new. However, there is a serious point to be made that it’s not the lobbying itself people hate; it’s the policies they’re lobbying. Generally, I try not to take too many shots at any particular groups, however, I am going to explain how this type of lobbying in particular.


When you look at FPL, you are looking at the largest utilities company in the state. They have the most money to spend on things like lobbying. And boy, do they spend it on lobbying.


In 2018 alone, FPL spent a total of $8 million during the elections, all on campaign donations. However, they have to be a bit more covert than outright donating to lawmakers (ii).


Instead, they fund organizations that support certain lawmakers, which puts FPL in favor with a majority of the state legislature. In fact, from January through September of 2019, FPL spent the third highest amount of money on lobbying ($545,000), behind only the U.S. Sugar Corp. and AT&T (ii). Keep in mind that 2019 was not an election year.


These numbers should be concerning.


Net metering is something that is favorable for everyone except big energy companies like FPL.


In fact, it’s been in Florida as part of a group of incentives to get people to switch to solar energy.


Since so much of Florida’s economy is reliant on tourism, it’s a state that should be putting a focus on environmental sustainability. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, the fact that fossil fuels are running out is not going to change. The sooner we can adapt to other, more sustainable sources of energy, the less we will feel the impact of when fossil fuels inevitably run out.


This brings me back to the bill, and the effects that DeSantis’ veto have for the future.

By taking a stand and saying no to FPL, he’s setting an interesting precedent for the coming years.


FPL is a group that’s gotten used to being told ‘yes.’ With so much money being given to legislators and other elected officials, it makes sense as to why. Lawmakers aren’t about to bite the hand that feeds them, so to say.


Yet DeSantis has just blocked an important bill for them, probably costing FPL a large amount of money (iii). What makes him so unafraid of going against them?


Personally, I think it has more to do with the bill being so unfavorable in the eyes of Floridians, than the importance of it to FPL. One source claims that over 16,000 calls, letters, and emails were sent to the Governor asking for him to veto this bill (iv). When put up against the measly thirteen individuals who truly supported the bill, it’s the only logical decision to make.


After all, this close to elections, you wouldn’t want your constituents getting the idea that you can’t stand up for the will of the people.


Whether or not this act of rebellion will cost DeSantis remains to be seen, but I doubt it will have much effect, especially with the polls we’ve seen.


Either way, this should give the average Floridian a boost of confidence in their leadership, and perhaps a bit of hope, too.



References


(i) Downey, R. (2022, February 16). Poll: 84% of Florida voters support net metering as lawmakers debate solar incentives. Florida Politics. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://floridapolitics.com/archives/497196-poll-84-of-florida-voters-support-net-metering-as-lawmakers-debate-solar-incentives/


(ii) Pounds, M. (2019, November 22). FPL spends millions to sway lawmakers. the result can affect your electric bill. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-fpl-lobbyists-influence-20191122-t3i4etvrh5hllfj37xttypt33e-story.html



(iii) Gheorghiu, I. (2022, April 27). Gov. DeSantis vetoes rooftop solar bill, citing desire to not add to 'financial crunch' facing Floridians. Utility Dive. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://www.utilitydive.com/news/Florida-desantis-vetoes-rooftop-solar-bill-behind-the-meter-cost-shifting/622820/


(iv) Pittman, C. (2022, May 20). With solar bill veto, Florida gov. DeSantis slips into something more liberal. Florida Phoenix. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://floridaphoenix.com/2022/05/05/with-solar-bill-veto-florida-gov-desantis-slips-into-something-more-liberal/

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