In Florida Legislature, renewable advocates push for 3rd-party amendment

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Florida renewable energy legislation is moving swiftly through the state legislature…

Written by Dan Testa

A modest bill to expand a tax exemption for solar panels is expected to sail through the current session of the Florida Legislature, though more ambitious measures to open up the state to third-party renewable energy contracts is expected to face a harder road.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican, is sponsoring SB 922 to extend a property tax exemption that exists in Florida for residential solar installations to commercial properties as well. The companion bill in the House, HB 827, has bipartisan co-sponsors, and either version of the bill stands a strong chance of clearing the Legislature and heading to the governor’s desk, supporters say.

In 2008, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment creating a tax exemption for renewable energy and wind resistance improvements on homes. In 2013, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Democrat, carried the legislation implementing the amendment only for renewable energy, thus eliminating the increase in property taxes someone installing solar panels might confront. “It takes away the savings that one might realize from your utility bills if you are putting on solar panels hoping to get a savings and then you get hit with a tax bill that increases your taxes and that goes against what you thought you were going to save,” she said.

“Now Brandes thinks it’s a good idea to do it for commercial stuff and I do too. I think it’s tremendous,” Rehwinkel Vasilinda said of SB 922. “There are a lot of the big box stores and others that are very much concerned about their utility bills and would like to start creating some of their own energy, and I think that this will be important to them and I think it’s a great bill.”

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