Opposing solar initiatives far from 2016 ballot

Floridians for Solar Choice explores putting vote on solar sales on the 2018 ballot instead

Dec.December 27, 2015 12:00 PM

Opposing solar coalitions both need many more petitions to put their votes on the 2016 ballot.

Two initiatives to put solar-energy votes on Florida’s 2016 election ballot are fading.

Floridians for Solar Choice and Consumers for Smart Solar both need hundreds of thousands more petitions to qualify their proposed vote for the 2016 ballot.

Floridians for Solar Choice has started exploring an appearance on the 2018 ballot instead. The coalition’s initiative would allow businesses to generate and to sell as much as two megawatts of solar power to customers on the same property or neighboring properties.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a key supporter of the coalition, said the decision to possibly skip the 2016 presidential election ballot is “a strategic pivot” by Floridians for Solar Choice.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware, we’re not trying to deceive anybody, it’s just reality and people can count the numbers,” Smith said. “Campaigning is as strong as ever, and it’s not going away.”

Floridians for Solar Choice, which has received the bulk of its funding from a political arm of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, had collected about $1.49 million of contributions as of November 30.

Consumers for Smart Solar is a pro-utility coalition that promotes a ballot initiative in 2016 that would maintain the status quo, allowing Floridians with solar equipment to sell energy they generate to power companies.

Consumers for Smart Solar had raised $5.9 million of funding through the end of November. The state’s four major private utilities — Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric — directly accounted for $3.5 million of the total contributions.

Backers of both amendments must submit 683,149 valid signatures by February 1 to get on the November 2016 ballot.

On December 18, Floridians for Solar Choice had submitted 272,444 valid signatures, and the Consumers for Smart Solar proposal was up to 412,997 valid signatures. [Sun-Sentinel] — Mike Seemuth

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