A utility-backed constitutional amendment to restrict the expansion of rooftop solar systems in Florida is a piece of “political jiu jitsu” that looks to voters like a pro-solar initiative, according to a leaked audio recording of comments by Sal Nuzzo, policy director with the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute.
The amendment is “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything [pro-solar advocates] would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road,” Nuzzo said in the recording, first reported by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times. References to the Institute were scrubbed from the website of Consumers for Smart Solar, a political committee funded by the state’s largest utilities, after the story broke.
“The admission, made to a conference of conservative groups in Nashville on October 2, contradicted the pro-consumer message the utility-financed group has been pushing,” the Herald reports. “It also confirmed to opponents that the amendment was designed to undercut attempts to allow third-party sales of rooftop solar equipment in Florida.”
JMI President Bob McClure said Nuzzo “misspoke”, while Consumers for Smart Solar spokesperson Sarah Bascom denied the group had coordinated research with the institute. “Our social media consultants took it upon themselves to remove that information without our directive or permission,” she said, adding that her group was “very disappointed” with the “false narrative” the recording had created.
Energy and Policy Institute Executive Director David Pomerantz cast the scrubbed web sites as more evidence that “the utility-funded group behind Amendment 1 seems to be allergic to telling the truth.” He added that “the utilities can try to delete this scandal right out of existence, but there’s no amount of ‘jiu-jitsu’ that can hide the fact that Amendment 1 is an attack on solar power.”
Earlier this week, climate reporter Samantha Page at Think Progress warned that “money and misinformation could give Florida utilities a big win in November,” noting that the state’s solar companies had all lined up against a measure called Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice. The amendment “would effectively work against solar, by allowing utilities to add special charges for solar customers, the same type of charges that gutted the rooftop solar business in Arizona. It would also make solar leasing more difficult or impossible.”
While solar is popular in the Sunshine State, a poll late last month found 66% public support for the amendment, Page writes. (h/t to InsideClimate News for pointing us to the Miami Herald story)