What a pleasant surprise. On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have gutted the rooftop solar industry in Florida. This editorial board, along with many other opponents of the proposed changes, held out hope that the governor would see the measure for the one-sided, utility-company cash grab that it was. DeSantis, of course, didn’t sprinkle his veto letter with such strong language. He pointed to rising inflation and how the changes would have cost renters and homeowners too much. The result, however, is the same. The bill is dead, at least for now.
Florida currently allows homeowners and businesses with solar arrays to receive credit for electricity they send back to the grid. In 2020, about 1 percent of the state’s more than 8.5 million electricity customers engaged in the practice known as net metering. The state’s public utilities then sell that energy to other customers. The solar homeowners get paid what amounts to retail prices for the excess power. House Bill 741 would have significantly lowered the rate starting in 2024, undermining the incentive for homeowners and businesses to invest in new solar panels and provide the grid with a cleaner source of power. The bill would also have allowed utilities to ask state regulators to let them impose additional fees on homeowners and businesses that install solar, and another fee on solar and non-solar customers to help recover revenue lost to the installation of solar panels before 2024. Bottom line: less money for solar homeowners and more money in the coffers of the state’s largest utilities.
Lobbyists for the state’s largest electric utility, Florida Power & Light, helped write the first version of the bill. FPL officials and other supporters argued that the changes would ensure that non-solar customers weren’t subsidizing customers who invested in rooftop arrays. That logic never added up. It glossed over — or outright ignored — the benefits of how homes and businesses with solar arrays provide cleaner power, which cuts down on the amount of expensive and dirty fossil fuels that need to be burned to create electricity. Net metering isn’t perfect, and the state would be wise to thoroughly examine how best to compensate homeowners for providing solar energy to the grid. But this bill wasn’t the right step, not even close.
Thankfully, Gov. DeSantis knew the proposed changes would hit Floridians in the pocketbook while they were already dealing with escalating bills for gas and groceries. He concluded in a written statement that the additional charges utilities could impose to recover lost revenue from residential solar generation were “speculative and would be borne by all customers.”
This was a bad bill. It would have cost Floridians, both in their wallets and by setting back the rooftop solar industry, even as the state needs to diversify the ways it generates electricity. About 75 percent of the state’s electricity comes from burning natural gas, the price of which has more than doubled in the last year, a cost that utilities pass along to customers. Rooftop solar won’t solve all of Florida’s energy challenges, but that’s not a reason to pass a bill that would have kneecapped the solar industry and hurt regular Floridians. Gov. DeSantis understood that wisdom. A hardy huzzah to him for doing the right thing.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.