In Sunshine State, Big Energy Blocks Solar Power

[…] state lawmakers and lobbyists say that anyone who has attempted to expand the rooftop solar industry has been ostracized and seen their proposals go nowhere. The reason, some lawmakers say, is that Florida’s largest utility companies have invested heavily in state political campaigns to fend off competition from rooftop solar power.

An analysis of campaign records by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting shows that the utility companies have sunk $12 million into the campaigns of state lawmakers since 2010.

The Florida law that has restricted the growth of the rooftop solar industry has been on the books for nearly a century. It was written to give utilities a regional monopoly on power production, avoiding a tangle of power lines strung up by competing companies.

The problem is that few homeowners want to pay up front for the system, Johnson said. In about half of the states, solar companies can install panels for free and then sell the power to the home or business owner at a rate lower than local utilities, paying for the system over time. These third-party sales are generally illegal under the Florida law that gives utility companies a local monopoly on supplying power.


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