Utilities pump more than $15M into Amendment 1 on ballot

If approved, consumers would be prohibited from selling excess energy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida's investor-owned utilities have pumped more than $15 million into Amendment One on November's ballot. They say the amendment protects consumers who have solar and those who don't, even though many believe it will only promote solar developed by those companies.

Consumers for Smart Solar has amassed nearly $22 million in donations -- most of it from big utility companies. Campaign finance reports show the average contribution was $168,000.

Organizer Matt Carter is a former utility regulator and says the goal is to protect consumers.

"Protection from fraud. Protection from substandard equipment. Protections from scams and ripoffs." Carter said.

When asked how many consumers had actually contributed, Carter said, "I don't have that information ... but it's readily available."

The answer is 12, contributing a total of $405 out out $22 million raised.

A divided Supreme Court allowed the amendment on the ballot because there was nothing technically wrong with it, but in a dissent, one judge called it a wolf in sheep clothing.

The James Madison Institute, or JMI, is listed on the Smart Solar website as an endorser. Sal Nuzzo is JMI's policy director. And a speech Nuzzo gave in Nashville seems to validate the judge's concerns.

"So we essentially negated what the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and all these other folks were after," Nuzzo said.

Colleen Castille is the former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. She opposes Amendment One.

"I would tell people to vote no because it limits their ability to have solar on their home or on their business." Castille said.

Sixty percent of Florida's voters have to approve Amendment One for it to become part of the state constitution.

If the amendment is approved, consumers would be prohibited from selling excess energy generated by their panels. Solar could also face steep regulation, most likely by the Public Service Commission, the same commission regulating other utilities.