TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Legislature has passed a bill in both chambers that would effectively end legal perks for installing rooftop solar panels on homes.
The legislation was reportedly written and pushed through by lobbyists associated with Florida Power & Light, according to previous coverage by Miami-Herald and Floodlight.
After reporting by the Herald brought the FPL involvement in House Bill 741 and companion legislation Senate Bill 1024 to light in December, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political opponents held a variety of events highlighting their support of solar power and other renewables like wind and water, and opposition to the legislation itself.
Now having passed in both chambers, the changes are on their way as a bill for DeSantis to sign or veto.
According to HB 741, public residents that own or lease renewable energy generators must be credited for any excess power supplied by their generators through a program set up by their providers. The credits must be given by the public utility companies, such as FPL, Tampa Electric Company, or Duke Energy, to name a few.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist previously criticized the legislation as a way to prevent Floridians from tapping into one of Florida’s most available natural resources, the sun.
“There’s an effort underway in our state that would dramatically restrict the ability of Floridians to tap into the power of the sun to power their homes. That’s bad for consumers, it’s bad for jobs, it’s bad for our environment and it’s certainly bad for Florida,” Crist said in December. “There’s been a tremendous increase in the number of Florida home owners who want to put solar panels on their roofs in recent years. And for good reason. homeowners want to reduce their monthly electric bills.”
At the time, Crist said solar power and other renewables are a win for everyone across the political spectrum and the industry creates thousands of jobs.
Crist’s criticism of HB 741 is focused on how the legislation would remove financial incentives for installing and using solar power generators at their homes. As written, the bill would make it so public utilities have to create net metering programs by Jan. 1, 2024.
But what is net metering?
According to Florida Power & Light, net metering is how “customers who connect approved, renewable generation systems such as solar panels to the electric grid” can “buy and sell electricity to FPL.” The company said it’s a way for residents to lower their monthly electric bills, if their system produces more energy than you need. Then, the amount of energy is deducted or discounted from your monthly bill, or to a future bill in the same calendar year.
So, what does HB 741 do?
If the renewable energy reform is signed into law, now that it’s passed both chambers, the credits will be reduced from current rates.
As written, the energy credits that customer-owned or leased power generation creates must have a “net metering application” approved. For those approved between Jan. 1, 2024, and Dec. 31, 2025, the customer’s energy bill would be “offset by 75% of the amount credited.”
However, after 2025, for applications approved from Jan. 1, 2026, to Dec. 31, 2026, residents using the net metering programs would have the amount their bills are offset by the credits reduced from 75% to 60%. For applicants approved from Jan. 1, 2027, to Dec. 31, 2028, the credit amount on their bills would drop another 10 points to 50%.
In January 2029, the Florida Public Service Commission would be required to draft new rules for net metering, and any applications for resident-owned or leased solar credits would be approved to continue at the rate previously set, for a 20 year period. Afterward, utility companies will be allowed to petition the PSC for rights to impose new charges for customers who had made use of net metering credits and owned or leased renewable power generators.
At that point, the credit options for those providing solar power to their utility company through solar or other renewables would be void. Customers with renewable power would have to pay the full cost of electric service, and “may not be subsidized” by the utility’s “general body of ratepayers.”
As proposed, the reform on renewable energy credits would effectively take away any financial incentives to use solar energy, and instead allow power companies to charge all customers based on usage alone. No discounts would be available to solar customers, even those who paid to install solar on their own dime for ownership or leasing at their homes.
Additionally, power companies could actually get money back from customers with renewable energy, particularly “photovoltaic generation,” through fuel and purchased power cost recovery charges, if revenue is lost from “incremental addition of residential customer-owned” solar power, from July 1, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2023.
If signed into law by DeSantis, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2022.