War over solar amendments flares into battle for signatures
Although many Floridians may not know it, two competing solar petitions that could dictate the future of the state’s lucrative electricity market are engaged in a well-funded battle for signatures — and voter confusion has been the result.
Becky Van Horn of Hollywood says she “was duped” into signing a utility-backed Consumers for Smart Solar petition by being told it would make it easier for people to switch to solar power in Florida.
“I didn’t realize there were two petitions going around,” said Van Horn, a senior at Florida International University who signed a petition on the Biscayne Bay campus after talking to a “very knowledgeable” pro-solar petition gatherer. “I think a lot of people do that. They don’t really read what they’re signing.”
Donna Redish of Tampa says she “was scammed” into signing the same petition because it was described as the “revised, updated version” of the Floridians for Solar Choice initiative she had already signed.
And when Greg Fussell was handed the rival initiative, the Smart Solar petition, he rejected it as the one promoted by utility companies, so he was given another — the one promoted by the solar industry, he reported in a letter to the editor of the Gainvesville Sun.
“Why the first one?” Fussell said he asked the young petition gatherer outside the University of Florida Health Science Center. “I get paid more,” he was told.
Organizers of the utility-backed Smart Solar initiative say they have no intention of misleading voters.
“It defies all logic to suggest that we think confusing our amendment with theirs will help us get signatures,” said Sarah Bascom, spokeswoman for the group. “If that is happening, we want to know about it because we won’t tolerate it.”
But it’s a scenario many predicted when a coalition of solar companies launched the Floridians for Solar Choice amendment last spring that, if successful, threatens to impose unprecedented competition upon Florida utility monopolies by allowing the establishment of independently run solar installations across the state. The utilities fought back and launched a rival amendment, Consumers for Smart Solar, to leave things as they are and let state and local regulators decide. Story here.