Florida — Sixty-four organizations called on the Florida Legislature to approve a proposal that would make it easier for Florida schools, universities, municipalities, and nonprofits to install solar in order to reap its economic, climate, and educational benefits.
During a virtual press event joined by bill sponsors Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) and Rep. Omari Hardy (D-Lake Worth Beach), the organizations announced that they had sent a letter to lawmakers urging passage of the legislation.
Sen. Berman and Rep. Hardy said their proposed bill, SB 1718/HB 1611, would allow financing tools that make it easier for schools to install solar energy systems. They joined two Florida clean energy nonprofits, Solar United Neighbors and Generation180, at the online event, during which several key stakeholders and experts detailed the bill’s positive implications for Florida schools, universities, municipalities, and nonprofits by promoting installation of solar to reap financial, climate, and educational benefits.
“It is inconceivable that in Florida, renowned as the ’Sunshine State,’ just 2% of all our electricity generation is sourced from solar,” Sen. Berman said. “Our nonprofits, municipalities, businesses and schools have been blocked from financing their own small-scale solar projects, infringing on their energy rights and shutting them out of electricity savings. SB 1718 will remove this legal barrier and authorize their use of power purchase agreements. It is time for Florida to join more than 28 other states in doing so.”
By legalizing Power Purchase Agreements, or PPAs, SB 1718/HB 1611 would enable broader solar adoption for Florida organizations. With a PPA, a developer installs, owns, and operates a solar system on a customer’s property. The customer purchases the system’s electric output at a fixed rate, which is generally a lower rate than what they pay to their utility company. These third-party ownership agreements help groups install solar at little to no upfront cost and see immediate savings on their energy costs.
“Our bill is a big step forward for renewable energy in Florida, and it’s a shot across the bow of Florida’s utility monopolists,” said Rep. Hardy. “It empowers property owners to reduce their dependence on fossil fuel and to do their part to address this climate crisis. It’s a win for the climate and a win for everyday Floridians who want the freedom to address their own energy needs in a clean, green, and cost-effective way.”
Supporters of the legislation include Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) and PTA, Osceola County School District, Sarasota County Schools and PTA, City of South Miami, Healthy Gulf, Lutherans Restoring Creation, United Methodist Women, League of Women Voters of Florida, NAACP Miami-Dade County, U.S. Green Building Council, Vote Solar, Sierra Club, and other commercial, religious, and environmental organizations.
“I wholeheartedly endorse SB 1718 and HB 1611,” said Luisa Santos, school board member at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “Solar energy is a key source of renewable energy for our state, and this legislation will ensure that our schools can be partners in creating a sustainable future for all.”
In a recent analysis, researchers from the University of Central Florida estimated that enabling PPAs in Florida would create more than 25,000 new jobs and spur $4 billion in economic investment in the state. Currently, 28 states and Washington, D.C., allow third-party power purchase agreements, and Florida is only one of seven states that explicitly disallows it.
“Helping schools and local governments go solar is a smart solution to spur economic growth,” said Heaven Campbell, Solar United Neighbors Florida Program Director. “Doing so will save taxpayer money and strengthen our communities.”
“Thousands of schools across the country are being powered by solar with little to no upfront costs, and Florida is getting left behind,” added Tish Tablan, Director of Generation180’s Solar for All Schools Program. “All Florida schools deserve the chance to affordably access solar and reap the financial, educational, and community benefits.”