Solar Energy in The Keys-Making it Affordable

August 30, Floridians voted and passed Amendment 4 that would support providing tax exemptions for solar power and renewable energy equipment. These incentives help the private citizen “go green” with energy equipment without tax repercussions. In conjunction, Florida already has a 30 percent tax credit for photovoltaic (solar electric) and solar thermal systems (solar water heating) to help off set costs. Florida Keys residents have voiced their wish to go more green but it still boils down to how much will it cost?

 Amendment 1 on the November 8 ballot is entirely different going after solar energy. A vote “yes” would constitutionalize the right to own or lease solar equipment and protect non-solar users from subsidizing solar energy. A vote “no” would keep protecting the right of the consumer by state statute. This amendment is backed by big companies such as Florida Power and Light intending to keep their monopoly on power. If passed, they could inflict more fees and penalties on solar users. As for consumer rights, those are already protected by Florida’s existing laws. A vote “no” would not penalize solar energy in the future.

 Re-elected Keys Utility Board Member, Peter Batty said, “It’s more expensive with solar energy than natural gas and no one wants to pay for it. People want green power but it always comes down to cost.” Batty has no problem with solar energy but maintains the greenest energy is the energy never spent. True but… air conditioners and laundry dryers are an American habit hard to give up.

 Other countries such as Germany and France or states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey excel in solar energy, so it begs the question why not the “Sunshine State?”

“We are behind the times compared to them. Our power costs are so low that the numbers don’t add up like they do in Germany where they pay around 30 to 40 cents/kWh. We pay less than 10 cents/kWh,” said T.J.Patterson, of Florida Keys Electric Cooperative Assoc., Inc. If big energy companies offer cheaper alternatives, then yes, converting to solar looks less enticing.

 The most common misperception about solar energy is that it takes too long for the initial expense to be recovered.  With the cost of solar declining rapidly (by half since 2008), the payback times are much more attractive,” continued Patterson. 

“Amendment 1 is not consumer friendly, I will be voting no,” – Peter Batty, Keys Utility Board.

  On the November 8th ballot, Floridians will vote on Amendment 1,

“This amendment establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.”

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