Florida is known as the sunshine state for good reason, but historically it hasn’t been known to be the solar power state. That’s unfortunate because Florida has abundant sunshine. It is also a wealthy state with vast amounts of rooftop space for solar power systems. Politics and public policy have been barriers to greater solar adoption.
These barriers might be coming down fairly soon, at least somewhat. The Florida Solar Energy Industries Association will be addressing the relative lack of movement on solar power in its territory. The association made a number of moves recently to do this.
First, a new president of the Board of Directors was elected and one with many years of solar power. Secondly, a new Directory of Advocacy was hired. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the associated entered into an understanding with two influential groups.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy (FARE) are membership organizations that advocate for better energy options. SACE has been operating since 1985 in the name of energy reform and natural resource conservation. It is a regional organization based in a number of southern states. According to SACE, Florida has less than one percent of its electricity coming from solar power.
“It’s a real injustice that the solar market in the Sunshine State is being held back. It basically is the largest untapped market in the United States,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance.
Critics have tended to say some state utilities have a sort of monopoly on power generation and distribution. This situation partly results from a lack of competition. Now that solar power has dropped to a point where consumer interest is growing rapidly, utilities are getting more attention for their indifference or even obstructionist perspectives.
One particularly important issue for solar power advocates is protecting net metering. Home owners that make more electricity than they use can send it back to the grid and receive credits on their bills. They may wind up paying nothing because they meet their own electricity needs. Such an ability probably does appear objectionable to utilities. Technology has changed in favor of consumers, and will continue to improve. Utilities must adapt to a present and future where consumers are empowered both in terms of their electricity consumption and their mindsets.
The solar industry is not unified in some sense, because of different conditions on the ground in the various regions and states of the country. There are differing amounts of sunlight, cultural attitudes and regulatory climates. Florida could clearly be a solar power leader based on natural resources, but will it be able to make the cultural changes necessary to do so?