As reported in the Pensacola News Journal
PNJ| Viewpoint: Amendment 1 against ‘free market’
By: Christian Wagley October 28, 2016
Some of the biggest matchups of the college football season are upon us. But imagine if the best teams refused to play each other because they were afraid. That’s the situation with the anti-solar energy Amendment 1 on Florida’s election ballot, with Gulf Power Co. and Florida’s other investor-owned utilities afraid of a little healthy competition.
Amendment 1 does not create any new rights to solar energy, and could actually restrict it by allowing utilities to charge fees to customers who generate their own electricity. But the biggest restriction is that it enshrines a status quo in which only monopoly utilities can sell electricity. This deprives Floridians of one of our nation’s most valued institutions—the free market.
Despite its imperfections, a free market in which goods and services can be freely exchanged without undue restrictions leads to lower prices and better quality. Yet Florida is one of only four states that specifically protects utilities from competition by not allowing solar energy companies to install solar panels on the rooftop of a home or business, and sell that electricity back to the owner.
Under this scenario, an owner can even obtain a solar system at no up-front cost if they are willing to enter a long-term lease for electricity from their rooftop. This model is fueling the rapid growth of solar energy in other states, adding choice and bringing down costs. In 2015, free market advocates from the Tea Party, along with environmental groups who want a speedier transition away from dirty fossil fuels, worked to end Georgia’s restrictive laws, opening-up the market to solar energy.
Florida’s utilities saw that effort coming and created Amendment 1 to deflect it away with deception, rather than address the issue on its merits and change their business model to welcome competition. This lack of competition is stifling entrepreneurship, as the young thinkers and creators who help drive local economies are increasingly demanding renewable energy for their businesses — something that Florida’s utilities have been very slow to provide.
The reputation of Gulf Power Co. and other electric utilities is tarnished by their creation, funding, and deceptive promotion of Amendment 1. There is a suspicion of monopoly utilities that has now been pushed over the edge for many by this attempt to dupe the people of Florida.
That’s because Northwest Florida is a place where traditional values still hold true. Yet Amendment 1 is the electoral equivalent of being too ashamed to look a fellow human in the eyes, while at the same time deceiving them in order to serve a narrow self-interest of corporate greed. These are not the values that we teach our children.
These decisions to use trickery to keep out the competition are made by the management of Gulf Power Co. and other utilities, and not by their thousands of hard working employees who serve our community so well. Like the players on a good football team, they are surely proud of the work they do and don’t need protectionist policies to insulate them from competition.
Let’s hope there’s never a day when the Seminoles are too scared to take-on the Gators. Football is a lot more fun when the best teams play each other.
In that spirit, we must extend a welcoming hand to Florida’s electric utilities. We ask them to end the sham of Amendment 1, and stand up for progress that opens-up the free market of competition and brings the most efficient and affordable energy choices to the people of Florida. Only by voting NO on Amendment 1 will we still have a chance to get there.