When the question of solar energy in Florida comes up, many citizens want to know why there isn’t more.
What is one of the biggest barriers holding back meaningful solar development? It’s not the lack of sunshine — Florida has the best solar resource east of the Mississippi. The answer is burdensome taxes on solar equipment, which drive up the cost of solar power.
The Sunshine State should not be taxing people who harness the sun.
Taxes are one reason that Florida has 9 million energy customers but fewer than 12,000 rooftop solar systems. By comparison, New Jersey has over 43,000 rooftop systems installed with half the population and less sun. We can and should do better; after all, we’re the Sunshine State, right?
Florida voters can remove this barrier by voting yes on Amendment 4 on the Aug. 30 primary ballot. Amendment 4 will significantly lower solar energy costs by exempting the value of renewable energy devices, including solar panels, from the assessed value of real property and from the tangible personal property tax — the most burdensome of the taxes — for 20 years.
The solar tax exemption amendment was put on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. House Joint Resolution 193 — sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes and Reps. Ray Rodrigues and Lori Berman — passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature in the 2016 session.
It’s a bipartisan, sensible, pro-solar ballot amendment seeking to increase the use of solar power, and a policy that all Floridians can support.
Here’s why it matters:
Economics. First, a definition: “ad valorem” means a tax rate applied to a value. So, if the value of a new solar system is $30,000 and a county’s “millage” rate is 2.0 percent, then the first year tangible personal property tax on the solar system is $600. The system is taxed annually on declining value as it depreciates, which means that this tax can kill the economic benefits derived from going solar in Florida.
Demand for energy choice. Look no farther than the excitement generated over the last year and a half by the immense grassroots effort of the Floridians for Solar Choice ballot initiative to understand that Floridians want more energy choices and energy freedom.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. We hear a lot of ‘jobs’ talk in Tallahassee — with a great example being the governor’s recent trip to California to woo companies to Florida because of our pro-business environment. Now, thanks to the legislature, Floridians will have an opportunity to expand an industry that provides well-paying jobs right here at home with Amendment 4 — but voters have to seize the opportunity. The solar industry is creating jobs 20 times faster than the overall economy. One in 83 new jobs created in the U.S. last year was in the solar industry.
Keep energy dollars right here at home. Florida is heavily dependent on a single energy source at present: specifically imported natural gas, which generates almost two-thirds of our electricity. That leaves customers potentially exposed to fuel price spikes on their electricity bills.
How much energy does the Sunshine State generate from solar? Sadly, it’s less than 1 percent. And despite the fact that Florida is one of the largest electricity markets in the country, the ‘Sunshine State’ was ranked just 16th for installed solar in 2015.
Instead of sending our energy dollars out of state, let’s keep that money here, growing our local economy.
Cleaner air and water and a more sustainable future. Solar power is a clea n and safe energy source with zero emissions and zero water usage. Since solar has no emissions, it makes sense to transition our energy sector toward more solar, given that a healthier environment will lead to a healthier economy. By lowering the cost of solar, more people will have access to this clean energy source, leading to a more sustainable future for our kids and grandkids.
Of course, there are other policies that are important for strong solar power development in Florida. But the Amendment 4 tax exemption for solar power is the most immediate action voters can take to jump start meaningful solar power development in the Sunshine State.
Lastly, do not mistake Amendment 4 for the non-consumer-friendly utility funded solar amendment appearing on the November ballot as Amendment 1. Amendment 4 in August benefits everyone in Florida and moves solar policy forward in the Sunshine State.
Endorse Amendment 4 in August — vote yes on solar.