Floridians for Solar Choice, a 2015 formed alliance of conservatives, libertarians, and environmentalists, launched a ballot initiative that would allow voters in the 2016 election to vote on whether or not property owners who can put solar panels on their roofs and then purchase the solar electricity generated from third parties.
The coalition is made up of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, the Florida Retail Federation, the Christian Coalition, the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, and the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida and the Libertarian Party of Florida also support the ballot initiative. This collection of parties, while disagreeing on many political issues, agree that the electricity market should be opened to allow solar energy the chance to compete with the major utilities in the state.
Tom Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, told The Daily Fray that he has been seeking support across the entire political spectrum in order to change Florida’s energy policy and “open it up to an all-of-the-above free market policy.”
At the press conference announcing the ballot initiative in January, Alex Snitker, the Libertarian Party of Florida Vice President, said,
Who is the opposition? The opposition is the people that are profiting off of the current monopoly they have right now… One of the things Libertarians complain about a lot of times is government-sponsored monopolies. I can’t think of a better example then what we currently have in Florida right now.
If the court approves the ballot initiative, then Floridians for Solar Choice must gather 683,149 signatures to get the vote on the ballot.
The opponents of the Florida ballot initiative include fossil fuel-backed front groups such as the Americans for Prosperity, Heartland, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy.
Fossil fuel companies have also recently come out against the initiative. In June, Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co., and Southern Company’s Gulf Power, all filed briefs with the state Supreme Court opposing the ballot. Perfetti told ThinkProgress that the opposition didn’t surprise him: “When you upset the status quo, you’re going to have of course the utility industry fight back and use allies of their’s or other individuals who have associations. I was not surprised on any of those groups.”
In July 2015, a utility-sided group called “Consumers for Smart Solar” announced it was launching a campaign for an alternative ballot proposition that would not allow third party sales of solar energy. Perfetti commented on the new ballot initiative saying it “appears to be a very slickly devised campaign to potentially confuse voters.”