Utility-backed solar group launches November campaign: 'Yes on 1 for the sun'
With a spot on the ballot secured, the utility-backed group pushing a solar energy constitutional amendment is shifting into gear for November's election.
The group, called Consumers for Smart Solar, unveiled its campaign Tuesday, called "Yes on 1 for the sun." Its constitutional amendment will appear as Amendment 1 on the ballot.
And its backers are billing it as a consumer-friendly expansion of solar power.
"Because of the potential and positive benefits, solar can play a very important role in Florida's energy future, but we have to do it in the right way, a way that protects consumers from scam artists, long-term contract traps and rip-offs," said Jim Kallinger, the campaign co-chair and a former Republican state representative.
For the most part, it maintains the status quo, writing language into the constitution that allows government to regulate solar companies.
The group emerged as a constitutional amendment pushed to open the state up to a business model based on leasing solar panels to people, which is currently illegal. That amendment failed to make the ballot, and Consumers for Smart Solar says their amendment wouldn't preclude the state from doing so later -- they just don't think it's a good idea.
Screven Watson, a board member on the campaign and former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, attacked those leasing companies as "out-of-state special interests" that engage in sketchy business practices and don't want to pay to maintain the grid.
Much of Consumers for Smart Solar's money comes from the state's utility companies.
In March, they brought in $35,000 -- all from Gulf Power Company. But since they opened their committee in July 2015, $4.5 million of their $7.6 million raised has come from the state's four major power companies: Gulf, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Company and Florida Power and Light.
Another $3 million came from major business and conservative lobby groups.