1. Business

Romano: Here's your chance to show the electric company you're not a sucker

Workers repair a downed power line Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in San Francisco. The first significant storm of the year hit the Bay Area with gusty winds and rain expected through the weekend. (Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
Published Oct. 20, 2016

Let me ask you something:

Have you ever wanted to stick it to the man?

By that, I mean have you ever wanted to beat the system? Bring down the powers that be? Play David to some corporate Goliath?

If so, you've got the chance this election.

I'm talking about Amendment 1. A cheerful, progressive-sounding amendment that could turn solar energy into the same kind of money-sucking scam that nuclear plants became in Florida.

Just so there is no confusion here:

Amendment 1 is a bad idea. Horrible, actually.

It is the brainchild of utility companies as part of a stay-rich-forever scheme. Basically, it gives them an inside track on solar energy revenues and curtails your solar options.

Naturally, they would argue differently.

In fact, they have with about $21 million in advertising that may eventually eclipse the record for the most money ever spent on a ballot initiative in Florida.

"The amendment is a dirty trick,'' said environmental attorney David Guest, who argued against the ballot language in front of the state Supreme Court. "What it does is create the false impression that voters are getting something new and improved and … that is a dirty lie."

Trigaux: Florida utilities' efforts to mislead voters on Amendment 1 solar issue is shameful

While they have spent a ton of money selling the amendment, it looks like their investment is paying off. Recent polls indicate voters are ready to approve Amendment 1 by a fairly safe margin.

So what would the amendment do? Well, not what it claims.

Basically, the amendment would accomplish two things.

No. 1, it would strengthen the status quo. Which likely means Florida would continue to lag in solar production. Other states allow solar companies to pay for the up-front costs of panels on your home, and then sell you the electricity at cheaper rates. Florida does not.

No. 2, it would create a pathway for the Legislature to sabotage net metering. This is the process that allows solar users to sell their excess energy back to utility companies. Power companies hate it because they don't profit on it. The Brookings Institution, one of the nation's oldest and most moderate think tanks, recently completed a study that said net metering "benefits all ratepayers.''

So, in effect, the amendment keeps the worst of our current laws, and introduces the possibility of a new law to benefit utilities.

The Consumers Union, which is the policy branch of Consumer Reports, will release a statement this week saying the amendment will make solar more expensive, less accessible and "favor the utilities over ordinary customers.'' A state Supreme Court justice called it a wolf in sheep's clothing. Newspaper editorial boards across Florida are lining up to denounce it.

Need I go on?

Residents have grown used to playing the role of money-producing suckers for power companies because a bunch of our state legislators are glorified streetwalkers when it comes to utilities.

And the Public Service Commission has turned into a cast of sock puppets ever since a few commissioners dared to stand up to power companies a half-dozen years ago.

In other words, we're usually at the mercy of power companies. This time, however, you actually have a chance to fight back.

When it comes to Amendment 1, tell them to stick it, so the sun finally does shine.


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