Missing in Florida — Where are the Solar Panels

Alissa Jean Schafer, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Florida…spring break destination, over 1,000 miles of gorgeous shoreline, and national punch-line of countless jokes on topics ranging from stupid criminals to stupid politics. Populated by about 20 million residents and over 100 million tourists on a yearly basis, the state is in the spotlight for plenty of reasons. Election season is no different.

Most folks are painfully aware of the presidential race. In Florida however, in addition to the chance to select a commander in chief who doesn’t deny the science of climate change, voters will also find “solar energy” on their ballots, something that caught the attention of Years of Living Dangerously back in 2015. It’s called “Amendment 1” and here’s why it matters.

Amendment 1 sounds like it’s good for solar, but it’s actually very bad. Funded by power companies (tune of over $21 million) Amendment 1 does nothing to expand solar in Florida and instead paves the way for policies that would discourage people from going solar! In a state with the potential to be a solar leader and yet less than 12,000 rooftop solar systems for millions of residents and tourists, why are the power companies spending so much to trick people into voting for something that would be bad for solar?

I had the opportunity to look into what was really going on with Years of Living Dangerously and correspondent Cecily Strong. Sitting in a lobby in Fort Lauderdale, Cecily was shocked to hear that the power companies were spending millions on this anti-solar measure. Coming from other, more cloudy states with more solar, Cecily was expecting Florida to be full of solar panels, but here we were, hardly any solar to be found.

We dug into the deception behind Amendment 1, canvassing at the beach and talking to Floridians who had actually already been tricked by the power companies’ campaign. We heard the same thing, over and over: “Florida needs more solar, and I thought this would help with that!” The frustration, confusion, and surprise was real.

Florida does need more solar. As we continue to face the climate crisis, smart solutions are crucial for our future. Solar energy provides a clean, safe, and affordable way to power our lives. With the right policies, everyone can and should be benefitting from this technology, yet we see it being held back by special interests who are more concerned with the future of their profits than the future of our life on this earth. Amendment 1 is just one example. Hopefully voters will see through the power companies’ campaign and vote “NO” on Amendment 1.

I’m very thankful to the Years of Living Dangerously team and to Cecily Strong for all the time and resources that they have invested into telling this, and many other crucially important stories. When you are fighting against lies on such a large scale, you need champions to share the truth with the people. This is what Years of Living Dangerously is doing and I am honored to be a part of the project.

This fight has been very real to me for a while, but it hit me in a whole new way when I learned I was going to be a mom. I want to do everything I can to create a beautiful future for my daughter. It’s time for “The Sunshine State” to be more than a license plate slogan. Vote NO on Amendment 1 for a clean energy future that we can be proud to share with generations to come.

Alissa Jean Schafer, from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, is a professional communicator/writer/speaker, clean energy advocate, campaign manager, relationship builder, event planner, and marketing pro, a graduated graduate student of communications with a business and social networking emphasis, and a full time red-head life-explorer.