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Fleming Island senator sparks fight over solar panels

Rooftop solar panels
Wikimedia Commons

A solar energy proposal from a Jacksonville lawmaker is advancing in the Legislature, despite worries that it could decimate Florida's rooftop solar industry.

A Senate committee Tuesday approved the controversial bill (SB 1024) sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island.

The bill calls for revamping a 2008 rule about what is known as “net metering,” which governs charges and credits between electric utilities and customers who have rooftop systems. The bill would direct the state Public Service Commission to revamp the rule, including making a change that would effectively reduce credit amounts for customers.

Bradley and other supporters of the bill said the net-metering rule has created subsidies for people with rooftop solar systems, which has shifted costs of the broader electric grid to other customers.

Before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved the bill Tuesday, Bradley said the state needs to have a “fair and equitable” process. But the bill drew heavy opposition from environmental groups and companies that install rooftop systems. They said the changes would decimate the rooftop solar industry and cause job losses.

Jonathan Webber of Florida Conservation Voters said the proposal could mean “lights out for rooftop solar in Florida.”

The proposal would allow people who already have rooftop systems to continue under the net-metering rule for 10 more years.