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Graham criticizes solar ballot initiative

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham voiced opposition Tuesday to a solar-energy constitutional amendment backed by major electric utilities.

Graham, a Democrat, said during a media conference call that Florida needs more diverse sources of energy and that approval of the amendment, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot, will continue the state's reliance on natural gas to produce electricity.

"This amendment is deceptive in that all the things that the advocates say could happen with this amendment could happen without this amendment," Graham said. "You don't have to have a constitutional amendment to have adequate regulatory policies over solar, you don't have to have a constitutional amendment to have adequate safety standards."

Graham said the reason Florida lags in solar energy production is "most totally a matter of bad public policy."

And he added that if the amendment fails to get the required 60 percent for approval, it 'would be yet another signal, which hopefully would be heard in Tallahassee, and would lead to Florida adopting the aggressive approach that Georgia has already taken."

Last year, the Georgia Legislature approved a measure that allows homeowners to sign agreements with solar power companies that enable them to sell a set amount of electricity generated from the sun back to the local grid, in turn allowing them to pay off their installations.

The Consumers for Smart Solar amendment in Florida would enshrine in the state Constitution existing rules regarding the use of solar energy by private property owners.

The proposal also includes a more-contentious provision, which states that people who haven't installed solar on their property "are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do."

Proponents say the second provision offers consumer protections for people who don't install solar panels.

Opponents such as Graham argue it could result in "discriminatory charges" against rooftop solar users and limit the desire of people to go solar.