SUBMITTED BY GABRIELLE A. CONNOR — University of Florida
Floridians are being faced with a tough decision this upcoming election. Many residents are confused on whether to vote for or against Amendment 1 on Nov. 8.
The bill is advertised as a smart solar initiative that will help solar energy consumers gain rights to own solar equipment. Opponents of the amendment claim that this is a way for utility companies to maintain their monopolies and to continue controlling the way that Florida citizens obtain energy.
Alissa Schafer, solar communications and policy manager for the Southern Alliance of Clean Energy, said her organization has partnered with Floridians for Solar Choice to help educate voters on the dangers of voting in favor of the bill.
Schafer said that the amendment is written to confuse voters with misleading information and promising voters rights that they already have.
“It’s a form of voter fraud, really,” she said.
If Amendment 1 passes, it would set the stage for utility companies to charge monthly fees and penalties, which will hinder solar growth in Florida, she said.
“Florida has one of the highest potentials for solar energy in the whole country, but we’re not living up to that potential at all,” Schafer said.
Donna Simmons, a Sarasota resident, was given previous knowledge on the bill and intended on voting in opposition of it; however, the phrasing and wording on the ballot led her to unintentionally vote in favor of it.
“I read it three times and actually thought I was voting against it because of the way it was phrased,” Simmons said.
Simmons said that she doesn’t feel that the public is being thoroughly informed on everything that the bill entails because the money for advertising and campaigning is solely in the hands of advocates of Amendment 1.
“Nobody can compete with that kind of money and power,” Simmons said. “It makes me not want to vote.”
The leading advocates for Amendment 1, Consumers for Smart Solar, have brought in over $21 million, predominately funded by large energy companies, Schafer said.
Although Floridians for Solar Choice does not have the financial foundation that Consumers for Smart Solar has, they are still doing everything they can to help voters make the right decision, she said.
“In order for us to continue making positive progress, we first need to defeat anything that’s going to harm the progress we’ve already made,” Schafer said.