Homeowners switch to solar before Florida’s net metering bill goes into effect

Customers credit solar co-ops with helping save money on purchasing equipment

OVIEDO, Fla. – As solar energy customers wait to see if Florida’s net metering bill will become law, some thinking about making the switch to solar are finding creative ways to save money ahead of possibly larger electric bills.

Meghan McCollum and Jonathan White, of Oviedo, said they wrestled with their electric bill for months.

“It just kept going up, no matter what we were doing,” McCollum said.

“(Bills) were probably between $150 and $200 a month,” White said.

“We couldn’t get it lower,” McCollum said.

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“We did everything we could think to try,” White said. “We did the insulation; we had the energy company come out and give a survey of what they recommended. We replaced the water heater.”

They said nothing really brought down the cost of electricity.

They said they stumbled across a company called Solar United Neighbors – a nonprofit organization that brings people together who are interested in solar panels and then helps them buy them at a bulk rate together from a retailer.

Spokeswoman Erin Hellkamp said it’s like getting 200 of your neighbors together, going to a solar retailer, and asking what kind of deal can you give us if we call agree to buy together?

McCollum and White joined the solar co-op five years ago.

“Now, we pay just the minimum. That is – you know – charged just to be connected to the grid,” McCollum said.

She said that amounts to approximately $15 per month because they are selling the excess solar power they generate back to the electric company – a practice called net metering.

News 6 investigated and found out since 2016, the number of Florida households installing solar panels has gone up 467%, totaling nearly 100,000 households across the state.

Solar Customers15,96524,12937,92159,47690,518
Utility Payments to Customers$499,554.25$751,486.58$1,077,440.21$967,340.36$1,348,176.04

Source: Florida Public Service Commission

Over that same period, Florida utility companies credited those solar customers more than $4.6 million to buy their excess solar energy at a retail rate.

Because of that, the Florida House and Senate have now approved new legislation that would reduce how much solar customers can sell that solar energy back for.

According to HB-741, customers who have solar panels installed by January 2024 will be grandfathered in, and they will be able to sell their excess electricity back to the utility at full retail rates for the next 20 years.

Those who install solar between 2024-2025 will be able to sell it back at 75% of the retail rate.

Customers who install solar in 2026 will see a 60% of retail credit, and those who install solar between 2027 and 2028 will see a credit of 50% of the retail rate.

That means energy bills for customers who choose to wait could be higher than those who beat the January 2024 deadline.

(Courtesy: Climate Central) (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Florida Power and Light was one of the driving forces behind the net metering bill in Tallahassee.

A spokesman told News 6, “We are pleased Florida lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to pass bi-partisan legislation aimed at modernizing the state’s outdated net metering rules. The old rules have fueled a rapidly growing, multi-million-dollar annual subsidy paid for by the vast majority of Floridians who don’t have rooftop solar in support of those who do. FPL leads the nation in expanding cost-effective, large-scale solar, and we also support our customers who choose to buy private rooftop solar systems. This legislation would take an important step toward balancing the costs of solar expansion in the state. While it would still potentially lock in hundreds of millions of dollars in extra charges for non-rooftop customers, it importantly directs the Florida Public Service Commission to phase out this regressive tax and make solar energy more equitable for all Floridians, not just the fortunate few.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the legislation.

Meantime, Solar United Neighbors is looking for homeowners to beat the deadline and join its latest co-op in Seminole County.

More information can be found here.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.