Solar legislation is getting a shake-up.
National changes might give you whiplash. Last week, Biden extended a Trump-era tariff on solar while making it easier to import some specific types of solar panels and cells.
Regulators in California nearly passed laws reducing solar subsidies for homeowners in January before pro-solar advocates, including Elon Musk, raised the alarm.
But a pair of bills in Florida speak to the future fights over rooftop solar in the U.S. more than the other recent developments (despite the fact that Musk hasn’t tweeted about them). They are Florida state bills HB 741 and SB 1024.
The bills both weaken regulations on net metering, or the process by which homeowners can sell extra electricity generated by their solar panels back to their local utility. Right now, unit rates for energy are standardized, but the bills would allow utilities to lower rates or slap on additional fees. Solar advocates fear this would hamper a major incentive for Floridians to install solar panels in their homes. Last week, both bills jumped the hurdles necessary for a full vote in the state legislature.
If passed, the bills could severely weaken the solar industry in Florida and test a legislative strategy favorable to electric utilities. Florida Power and Light argues that net metering, combined with rapid growth in the state solar industry since 2018, could cost it $700 million over the next three years. Reports covering leaked emails have suggested the utility is directly paying politicians to support the bills, which FPL denies.
The state legislature has not announced a date yet for a final vote. But given how supportive Florida lawmakers have been of natural gas in the past, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they sided with the utility.
It's a bit ironic given that Florida is one of the states most susceptible to climate change. Sea level rise could engulf much of the Sunshine State, putting a staggering $76 billion in infrastructure at risk by 2040, according to an analysis from the Center for Climate Integrity. Knee-capping rooftop solar, a key technology solution to reducing climate-damaging carbon pollution, while supporting natural gas seems like the exact opposite way to stave off that damage.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the utility provider. This story was updated on Feb. 11, 2022.