Ron DeSantis vetoes 'net metering' bill sought by FPL, opposed by solar industry
TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed one of the legislative session’s most lobbied bills, killing a “net metering” measure Wednesday sought by Florida Power & Light that would have sharply reined-in the rooftop solar industry.
Solar business owners had feared it would cripple their sales and maintenance industry, discouraging homeowners and others from installing rooftop solar.
But DeSantis’ veto also marks a major setback for FPL, which was behind a TV advertising and lobbying effort that helped convince the Republican-led Legislature to approve the measure (HB 741).
DeSantis, though, wasn’t convinced. He viewed the move as likely costing utility customers even more.
“Given that the United States is experiencing its worst inflation in 40 years and that consumers have seen steep increases in the price of gas and groceries, as well as escalating bills, the state of Florida should not contribute to the financial crunch that our citizens are experiencing,” DeSantis wrote in his veto letter.
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Solar advocates, which included several leading environmental organizations, said the "avoided cost" would have been much lower than the current price. That would have put the cost of solar panels out of the reach of many homeowners and jeopardize up to 40,000 jobs created by the rooftop solar industry, opponents said.
Many rooftop solar owners rely on the income created by the solar panels to finance their installation on their homes.
Backers of the bill argued the proposal would have simply evened the playing field and helped customers that currently don’t have rooftop solar.
FPL's TV ad campaign
In a new TV spot, the company said, “Outdated Florida laws are forcing FPL customers who don’t have rooftop solar to pay extra every month for the few who do.”
But the change halted by the governor’s veto also would have given state utilities even more command over the use of solar power to generate electricity.
The bill initially sought to immediately abolish net metering. But it was softened under opposition to create what supporters called a glide path, where solar panel owners would get a decreasing rate over time until 2029, when no more subsidies would be allowed. Solar panel owners also would have been grandfathered in under the bill for 20 years.
For DeSantis, who is seeking re-election this year, the move against FPL defies a company that is always a large contributor to both of the state’s leading political parties. Still, the governor’s main fund-raising committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, reports having received a relatively modest $75,000 in 2018 and 2019 from FPL, and just over $2,000 heading into this election season.
Did pressure move the governor?
One of DeSantis’ Democratic rivals for governor, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, said the governor felt pressure to break ranks with a powerful company.
“This is the power of millions of Floridians making their voices heard and demanding lower costs from Tallahassee,” said Crist, who has promised to promote solar expansion if elected in November. “Make no mistake: Gov. DeSantis wanted to give this win to the huge, wealthy special interests who are making Floridians pay through the nose for electricity.”
While the Republican-sponsored bill was approved largely along party lines in the Florida Senate, it had some crossover in the House, with 11 Democrats joining 72 Republican to support it.
FPL said in a statement after DeSantis’ veto that, “We remain committed to finding a more equitable net metering solution for all Floridians. FPL is leading the nation’s largest solar expansion and we will continue to advance solar that is cost-effective for all our customers.”
Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters, said supporters of solar energy could take credit for pushing back against FPL.
"There is no way the Sunshine State would let the Legislature take away our right to affordable rooftop solar panels without a fight," Webber said.
John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida bill on 'net metering' solar energy vetoed despite FPL lobbies