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Fla. state senator files bill to ease customer access to solar

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Fla. state senator files bill to ease customer access to solar

A Florida state senator filed legislation that would make it easier for property owners, such as building landlords, to produce and sell renewable energy on-site.

Florida Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez filed Senate Bill 222 on Jan. 3, which would alter the definition of a public utility to exempt certain private sales of generation from Florida Public Service Commission oversight.

S.B. 222 states that the term public utility should not apply to "a property owner who owns and operates a renewable energy source device ... with a capacity of up to 2.5 megawatts on his or her property and who produces and provides or sells renewable energy from that device to users located on the property."

The bill represents another attempt to legalize power purchase agreements between private parties without involvement from Florida's four major investor-owned electric utilities. The senator's previous attempts to enact similar legislation have reportedly died in committee.

Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary Duke Energy Florida LLC, Emera Inc. subsidiary Tampa Electric Co., NextEra Energy Inc. subsidiary Florida Power & Light Co. and its newly acquired utility Gulf Power Co. have supported controversial legislation in the past to maintain regulatory oversight over rooftop solar and prevent other customers from subsidizing the costs of distributed generation.

"Florida is far behind its potential when it comes to solar energy and for some time now, the main reason for that is politics," Rodriguez told the Miami New Times. "Simply put, the big utilities use their political muscle to maintain outdated monopolies."

Rodriguez's bill does not legalize full-scale solar leasing.