Net Metering Politics: Many Florida Municipal Electric Utilities Pay Less for Customer-Generated Solar Electricity

 

As a proposal (SB 1024) moves through the Florida Legislature that would allow investor-owned utilities to pay less for electricity generated by residential rooftop solar panels, critics of the legislation and of investor-owned utilities have ignored the fact that many Florida municipal-managed electric utilities are already paying residential customers less for solar-generated electricity.

Under current law, solar panel owners who have excess energy generated can sell it back to investor-owned utilities at the retail rate the utilities charge other customers. However, the proposal, sponsored by State Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) would allow investor-owned utilities to pay a cheaper price for rooftop solar-generated electricity.

The bill’s supporters claim solar customers are being subsidized by other utility customers because they rely on the underlying electric grid — and its lines, maintenance and other infrastructure costs — when the solar panels don’t generate enough electricity.

The issue has become partisan as Democrats attack the proposal as a benefit to investor-owned utilities, who are frequent campaign donors to Republicans.

U.S. Representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist (D-FL-13) said the anti-solar legislation is just another example of how utilities rig the system against the people of Florida in favor of corporations, adding, “Tallahassee is marching on.” He said as governor he would fight utility companies to prevent them from getting unfair rate increases and make it easier to install solar power for homeowners.

Also, State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) speaking on the net metering legislation, said, “I am one of the few lawmakers who have been aggressively challenging the power structure of our investor-owned utilities.”

However, the investor-owned utility argument to pay lower rates for solar-generated electricity is already in place for many municipal electric utilities — which are exempt from the current net metering law. In addition, some of these municipal utilities are located in counties that were carried in 2020 by now-President Joe Biden, who is a proponent of solar energy.

For example, the Gainesville Regional Utility — managed by the city of Gainesville — pays customers who generate excess solar electricity at the “avoided energy cost” rate. This rate is significantly lower than the retail rate currently required to be paid by investor-owned utilities.

Jacksonville’s city-owned utility, the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), changed its rooftop solar policy in 2018, reducing the amount it reimburses solar customers for excess power. The change doubled the amount of time it takes for solar owners to recoup their investment in solar panels.

And in Tallahassee customers only receive payments from the city-owned electric utility in the form of credits. These credits can only be used within a given 12-month period, and excess credits are lost at the end of the year.

Ironically, in 2020, Biden carried Alachua, Duval, and Leon counties, the location of Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tallahassee, respectively.

The bill passed the Senate Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday with a 6-3 party-line vote and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee.

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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Writing Bill” by kizzzbeth. CC BY 2.0.

 

 

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2 Thoughts to “Net Metering Politics: Many Florida Municipal Electric Utilities Pay Less for Customer-Generated Solar Electricity”

  1. B Berfg

    The best way to avoid all of this is to go off the grid & just generate your own power entirely.

  2. Steve Allen

    While living in Vermont I witnessed the stupidity of Vermont’s extreme liberal legislature as they lead the state down the net metering road. The legislature mandated that the utility companies had to buy the excess power from the solar panel customers at price GREATER than the wholesale price of electricity. Their belief was that this would encourage the sheeple to jump on the net metering/green energy bandwagon. The problem with buying power back from the customers was that the customers were not paying an actual bill, which would include a percentage of the payment that would go to the support and maintenance of the utility infrastructure. So who do you think suffered, the share holders or the customers? It got so bad that power lines would fall off of poles, aging transformers would blow out, etc. It became so bad that the local grocery store owner installed a very large generator on a pad to power the store when the main power would go out.

    Net metering is a scam. The biggest winners are the solar panel installers who put these systems up. The customer makes payments to the installers instead of the power companies. When you put solar panels on your house and net meter back to the utility, you still lose your power when there is a power outage. Solar should be used to power each individual house with the inclusion of a large (Tesla) storage battery. Net metering is just another feel good attempt to do away with “dirty fossil fuel”.

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