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Economy / Business

Hillsborough clean energy advocates applaud DeSantis' veto of the rooftop solar bill

Solar power advocates gather in Tampa
Steve Newborn
/
WUSF Public Media
Advocates for solar energy kick off a new solar co-op in Hillsborough County, including County Commissioner Pat Kemp, in green, and to her left, Rick Garrity, former head of the Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission

Advocates for solar power are applauding Gov. Ron DeSantis for vetoing a bill that would have restricted the right of homeowners to sell excess electricity back into the power grid.

The sun was shining on the small stage at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm as Solar United Neighbors started its sixth solar co-op in Hillsborough County. These groups leverage the bargaining power of groups to lower the costs of equipping homes with solar panels.

Julia Herbst is with Solar United Neighbors. The group worked behind the scenes to get the governor to veto the bill, which would have restricted homeowners from selling excess solar-generated electricity back into the power grid.

Julia Herbst
Steve Newborn
/
WUSF Public Media
Julia Herbst

"This has been a six month's fight," she said. "This has been extremely passionate, dedicated work. From partners, organizations, but from the most part it was individuals who really care passionately about solar, who really care about economics and jobs and the future for Florida.

DeSantis says he vetoed the measure because of the potential cost for energy consumers, who already are experiencing inflation and increased prices for gas and groceries.

Utilities had backed the legislation, arguing net metering means that non-solar customers pay more for electricity.

The measure would have phased in new net metering rates beginning in 2024.

Herbst said the bill would have limited competition for electricity from homeowners.

"I think it's important to recognize who owns power. Do individuals have the right to own appliances to generate their own power on their own property, to benefit the grid, to benefit their neighbors," Herbst said. "That's what this is about. Who owns the power?"

Herbst said if the governor signed the bill, it would have been devastating to the state's nascent solar industry.

"This is Florida fuel. This is local jobs," Herbst said. "This is investing in our own state."

Solar United Neighbors will host a meet-ups for homeowners to get more information about solar power, at 6 p.m. May 11 at the Carrollwood Village Park amphitheater.

This co-op is funded by Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa. Additional partners include: Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County, Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), Solar and Energy Loan Fund, Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition and Tampa Bay Sierra Club.