The Gainesville Sun endorses Amendment 4 for solar in an editorial today, July 31, 2016. This is important and must be passed to facilitate the inevitable switch from fossil fuels to sustainable power. We must defeat Amendment 1 in Nov., which would benefit the utility companies and not the consumer.
Pass Amendment 4 to promote solar
Posted at 2:00 AM
The Sunshine State should be a leader in the use of solar power.
Florida has the greatest solar potential of any eastern state, yet its cloudier neighbors to the north do a much better job of tapping the sun to provide electricity. There are 9 million energy customers in Florida but fewer than 12,000 rooftop solar systems — as compared to more than 43,000 rooftop systems in New Jersey, which has half the population.
Taxes are among the barriers to expanding the use of solar power in Florida. The problem provided a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement in the state Legislature, which unanimously passed a ballot initiative that would extend a tax break to businesses that invest in solar energy.
Voters will consider Amendment 4 on the Aug. 30 primary election ballot. The Sun recommends approval of the measure, which provides environmental as well as economic benefits.
Homeowners already get a break on their property taxes when they put solar panels on their rooftops. Amendment 4 would do the same for businesses, exempting the value of solar panels and other renewable energy devices from their property taxes for 20 years.
Florida needs to promote the use of renewable energy rather than relying on fossil fuels from out of state. Florida currently generates less than 1 percent of its electricity from solar power.
Solar energy makes sense for our environment and economy. The solar industry has seen job growth nearly 20 times faster than the overall national economy, according to the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit research and education organization. Amendment 4 would help solar companies, several of which are based in Gainesville, create more quality jobs in Florida.
A state such as Florida, which relies on its natural beauty to attract visitors, should turn away from polluting energy sources to the greatest extent possible. Carbon emissions contribute to climate change, which causes rising sea levels, increased heat waves and other consequences that have the potential to devastate our state.
Amendment 4 shouldn’t be a tough sell for Florida voters, and it doesn’t seem like it will be. A recent St. Leo University poll found 68 percent of respondents supported the measure, with just 7 percent opposed and 25 percent unsure. The amendment requires the approval of more than 60 percent of voters to be part of the state constitution.
While the enthusiasm of Floridians for solar energy is welcome, voters need to be savvy about solar ballot measures. Another measure, Amendment 1 on the November ballot, received 77 percent support in the St. Leo survey — despite the fact it only reinforces the solar status quo.
Utilities helped put Amendment 1 on the ballot to thwart a competing initiative that threatened their energy monopoly. Backers failed to put the competing initiative on the ballot, yet Amendment 1 remained under the guise of being a pro-solar measure.
Amendment 1 would enshrine in the state constitution the right of businesses and homeowners to own or lease solar equipment — something they already have the right to do. It would do nothing to expand the use of solar power in Florida.
Voters should stick with Amendment 4 as a real way to help the Sunshine State reach its solar potential. More must be done, but Amendment 4 would be a good step in making solar power more affordable for and thus widely used.
Amendment 4 is a common-sense measure that both parties were able to get behind. The Sun endorses the amendment and encourages voters to cast their ballots in favor of it on Aug. 30 and through early voting.