In my readings, recently I discovered this good and very important information regarding the question:
Should the Sunshine State Do More to Support The Development of Solar Energy?
I thought it’d be great to share some of the opinions expressed in regard to this question — I’m going to share one per blog post, over the next few posts, here’s the first one!
Carrie Cullen Hitt
VICE PRESIDENT, SOLAR ENERGY INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION
In Florida, solar energy meets a number of criteria that would be attractive to consumers and investors who would want a solar industry to develop there. The criteria include the state’s utility rates, its hours and intensity of sunshine and the growing energy demand. In fact, our association looks closely at Florida every year in search of industry progress. But Florida has a number of challenges.
Many states have used corporate, property, sales and other tax incentives as well as additional mechanisms to help attract investors who operate in this industry. What we’ve seen is that Florida does not daw those investors. Not only does the state not provide the tax incentives and other business support many other states have embraced, but it has other institutional barriers.
A person who wants to develop or install solar energy devices on homes or factories or shopping malls needs to have a contract with customers, a power-purchase agreement that allows that person to design and build and put that system in place. While many states allow those kinds of agreements, Florida does not. So, contractually, a developer is unable to deal directly with the customer, the power user. Florida says the utility has to be the one to sell the power, so another party gets to tap into any profits, diminishing the value of the investment.
Typically, a state has to have at least some incentives, legal and statutory features and methods of business support in place to permit solar energy companies to get the kind of market penetration they need for success. A state can pull some investors in if it doesn’t have everything companies want, but it must provide some of those needs and at attractive levels. Often states or utilities have a fund supported by energy rate payers or tax payers. These funds pay back companies and users — whether home owners or business sites — a certain percentage of their investment in order to lower the cost of manufacture and installation.
Florida has a fund, but there’s only a $25 million cap statewide. It’s pretty small. New York State’s is $120 million a year. That helps. Some people refer to these funds as sources of subsidy, but we think of them in terms of developing long-term industries and the great value of solar power.
So, developing appropriate tax incentives and establishing investment funds are two ways the state could encourage more solar power in Florida. A third way is by streamlining regulatory barriers, making it easier to connect solar power systems to the grid, for instance. Are there rules in place? Or does a developer have to sit around for a couple of years hoping the state legislature will come up with accommodations?
Our association has more than 1,000 members, from the folks who make solar panels to the installers who put them on your roof. Florida looks like a great market, and we monitor it closely. In fact, we’re having our national conference, expecting to bring 25,000 to 30,000 people to Orlando in early September this year. We’re hoping that draws more attention to how attractive Florida could be for a solar energy industry.