How would you like to never have to pay another electric bill?
On August 30, you’ll get a chance to vote on Florida’s Amendment 4, which would give tax breaks to the owners of businesses, condo buildings, apartments and other commercial structures who add solar energy upgrades.
Senator Jeff Brandes, who is hosting a press conference Wednesday in support of the amendment, says the tax breaks are long overdue.
If passed, the amendment will make solar upgrades more affordable, so you could see more homes and businesses go “off the grid.” Senator Brandes also says it could lead to thousands of more jobs in Florida, as solar companies move into the state and local businesses expand to meet demand.
The idea is to make solar panels more affordable and give everyone (regardless of income) greater access to renewable energy.
Amendment 4 would also help out big utility companies like Duke Energy, Tampa Electric and Florida Power and Light because it would reduce their tax liability on solar panels and other renewable energy equipment.
Although we live in the sunshine state, where you’d think solar energy would be a no-brainer, Florida ranks 13 in the country for the amount of solar power generated throughout the state.
Surprisingly, Georgia, a state that's half the size of Florida generates an enormous amount more solar power than we do. The latest numbers show they generate more than twice the amount of solar power as Florida.
Georgia already has similar tax breaks for solar panels and they've seen a huge boost in new job creation and the number of homes and businesses making the switch.
Right now, if you wanted to add solar panels to your business you would actually be taxed more because the solar upgrades increase the value of their home. A lot of people living here in Florida say that's not right and are pushing for Amendment 4 to pass.
Amendment 4 would exempt solar panels from a certain property tax known as tangible personal property tax. Most states do not have this tax, but Florida does.
Solar companies like SolarCity say the tax is an added cost and a barrier to them doing more business across the state. “We need this amendment to pass. Solar power allows people to exercise choice in electricity, an industry that has long been monopolized. It’s important that this Amendment passes for solar jobs and solar choice,” explained Amanda Myers, the Public Affairs Manager for SolarCity.
Of course, solar can be seen as the enemy to Florida's investor-owned utilities, a technology that threatens their bottom line. Senator Brandes says that may be one reason why it has taken so long for a solar amendment to make it onto our ballots.
Amendment 4 will be on Florida’s primary ballot, which you’ll vote on August 30th at your neighborhood polling place.
The tax exemptions would begin in 2018 and continue for 20 years. The state currently has an ad valorem tax abatement for solar and renewable energy devices on residential property, but this amendment would allow for significant expansion of renewable energy production for commercial properties and housing developments with more than one unit.
It has to get a supermajority vote of 60 percent to pass.
Senator Brandes will host a press conference Wednesday urging Floridians to vote yes on the measure at Eco Village Madiera Beach, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Eco Village is a community of single-family homes that are completely run by solar energy.
The company that builds the homes, Planet Green Energy, are currently building several other similar communities in Florida.
Relationship between Amendment 4 and Amendment 1
It's important to note there are two solar amendments coming up for a vote.
Amendment 4, as noted above, will be voted on in August.
On the general election ballot on November 4th, you'll also be asked to vote on Amendment 1.
Though the measures will appear on different ballots and are not directly related to each other, some argue that aspects of the two amendments are in conflict.
While Amendment 4 was gives tax breaks for solar, Amendment 1 may mislead voters. The "Consumers for Smart Solar" Amedment ensures the current power companies can maintain the monopoly and prohibit other companies from selling solar power. Utility companies insist the amendment is "good for consumers" but consumer advocates argue it is anything but that.
You can read more about amendment one here.