What’s happening with Florida solar?

The latest anti-solar policies, and why they matter for installers across the country
Author : 
July 10, 2024

You don’t have to be an installer in Florida to feel panicked about what’s happening in the Sunshine State.  Earlier this summer, the Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) rolled out a sweeping anti-solar proposal that targeted everything from net-metering to higher fixed fees.

Florida ranks third in the US (behind just California and Texas) when it comes to solar.  The policies and trends that get adopted in Florida are often leading indicators of how other lawmakers and installers will behave in their respective states.  Just as NEM 3.0 has had far-reaching effects beyond the California market, the OUC’s proposal has the potential to impact installers that operate far outside of Orlando county’s jurisdiction.  

That’s why Bodhi and Sunrgy teamed up to host an event at their new distribution center in Orlando, gathering together experts from FlaSEIA and Solar United Neighbors who could break down what exactly the OUC is proposing, as well as how Florida installers can stop it and save their industry.

It was an awesome event, with installers coming in from across the state.  And most importantly, the solar community’s outcry over the past month, spearheaded by FlaSEIA and Solar United Neighbors, effectively scared the OUC into reconsidering their proposed changes.  But if the fallout of NEM 3.0 has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t take your eyes off of anti-solar legislation until it’s totally and completely dead.  And the OUC’s proposal is unfortunately still kicking, even if they claim they’re reconsidering the worst of their changes.

Solar professionals came from all over the state to learn how they could stop the OUC's anti-solar proposal

That’s why we wanted to share the 3 most troubling impacts from the OUC’s proposal.  Whether you’re a Florida installer who wasn’t able to make the event, or you’re a solar business owner from a different state who is wary of how your own utility or government may try to copy-cat these policies, we hope this wrap-up gives you the ammo you need to push back against unjust regulations. 

Impact 1: With no provisions for grandfathering, solar sales and referrals will dry up.

Under the OUC’s original proposal, net metering in the county would be slashed from $.11 per kwh to $.04.  Through NEM 3.0 in California, we’ve seen how this plays out.  When net metering gets cut, consumers have less incentive for solar.  After NEM 3.0, solar demand in California cratered, resulting in at least a 22% reduction in solar jobs.  However, the OUC’s proposal goes a step further to make its impact on residential solar even worse. 

The utility has indicated that it won’t grandfather existing net metering customers to exempt them from this change, meaning customers who have invested thousands of dollars in solar will not get the benefits they paid for.  This is a huge deviation from what we’ve seen in NEM 3.0 — and it implies that the repercussions of the OUC’s proposal will be even more detrimental for Florida installers.

California solar businesses at least got to experience a bump in solar sales ahead of NEM 3.0’s full implementation.  Every Californian installer we spoke with reported a huge rush of installs, as homeowners sought to get interconnection applications submitted before the grandfathering cut-off of April, 2023.  Without a grandfathering clause, Florida installers will see no bump in sales that could at least help them weather the coming downturn.

Without a grandfathering provision, solar is also at risk of additional consumer backlash.  Homeowners and businesses who invested in solar because of the financial incentives around current net metering will now have the rug pulled out from under them.  Imagine your homeowners getting their first utility bill after the OUC’s net-metering changes go into effect…and then imagine what that bill is going to do for your referral program.  

Even the 2022 net metering legislation that Governor DeSantis vetoed provided for 20-year grandfathering.  This change by the OUC is likely to dry up multiple lead sources for installers, all while making the math around solar harder to sell. 

Impact 2: EVs and EV charging stations will see reduced demand.

The OUC’s proposal also penalizes customers for one-time energy peaks by imposing 12 months of higher fees.  At our event, Heather Campell from Solar United Neighbors explained it this way: 

“New fees are based on a ‘rolling 12-month’ period, so a mistake or one-time spike in July leads to higher fees through the following June.  For instance, doing laundry while cooking dinner at the wrong time could add $120 in penalties to your OUC bill.”

Additionally, the proposal seeks to increase rates during peak periods.  

All of this, of course, has negative implications for overall solar demand.  However, an under-appreciated (but hugely impactful) consequence is that these changes penalize EV charging.  By penalizing demand peaks at any time of day, the proposed changes specifically make it difficult for electric vehicle owners to charge.

At a time when solar companies are already struggling across the country because of a depressed market, EV chargers (and batteries) have been a key way installers have weathered the downturn.  We’ve heard from countless installers that it was only by diversifying their product lines with EV chargers and other add-ons that they’ve been able to maintain critical cash flow and stay in business.  But if homeowners are too nervous to charge their EVs at home, due to harsh demand pricing and extreme rates, the interest in these new product lines will also dry up.

Impact 3: Consumers will see reduced returns from their solar investments.

Under the OUC’s proposal, ratepayers will also see a new $5 to $15 fixed charge.  These charges, combined with the rate increases during peak periods we outlined above, all make the financial calculus of solar harder to square for consumers.  These changes reduce the return on investment for potential solar customers and make it harder to justify the upfront cost of a solar system.

Looking beyond its impact on installers, these changes simply don’t make sense for the city of Orlando.  Orlando has goals of 100% renewable energy citywide by 2050 and reducing electricity consumption by 20%.  However, with the OUC’s proposed higher fixed charges, it’s harder for customers to save money by reducing their energy consumption or generating their own energy.  Should these rate changes go into effect, consumers have little incentive to try to help the city reach its green energy goals.

Zooming back into the industry impact, whether a homeowner is funding solar investments themself or using federal programs to offset the costs, savings from this type of energy efficiency will be lessened.  Quoting from Heaven Campell once more:

“The timing of these changes signals that OUC wants to block, not embrace, energy equity coming from federal programs.”

Helping Florida installers and beyond

As any solar veteran will tell you, anti-solar legislation has been coming for the industry for a long time.  But what makes our industry so incredible is our ability to fight back and withstand even the worst circumstances. 

So what happens next?  The OUC is still planning to put a proposal forward on August 13th — we just don’t know what’s in it yet.  That’s why we encourage installers to sign up for additional action alerts, so that you can attend future meetings and show the full force of the solar industry.  We also encourage you to support your local industry organizations and advocacy groups.  FlaSEIA and Solar United Neighbors have led this charge against the OUC plan.  Their work is important.  All of us should be supporting them or similar organizations like them in our local areas.

We’re grateful for the way the Florida residential solar community showed up for our event with Sunrgy.  Through the power of the collective community and awesome industry organizations, we’ve held off the OUC for now.  But there will be more to come.  And we’ll be there to face it together and fight for a brighter future.

If you’re interested in Bodhi bringing an event like this to your state, get in touch.  And if you’d like to learn more about how Bodhi helps installers all over the country deliver amazing customer experiences, from sales through installation through service, you can schedule a demo here.

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