Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series of blog posts that delve into the findings of my thesis research. Part 2 and 3 will be released over the course of next weeks and will feature a more close-up look at the policy barriers and explore strategies at the sub-state level to deploy more solar.
Summary of Results
When it comes to solar PV adoption, Florida has been called many names: laggard, slow-mover, a big disappointment or outright hostile. In 2016, these characterizations faced their first test as two ballot initiatives about solar rights/restrictions and solar system tax treatment battled for the hearts and minds of Floridians, who saw themselves tossed in the middle of solar advocates on the one side and the utility camp on the other. The two ballot initiatives shined a light on a couple of high-profile policies such as solar leasing, net metering, solar charges and tax exemptions that co-determine the incentives to deploy more solar in the state. Still, there are a range of equally, if not more, consequential policies that shape the investment incentives that feature less prominently in the public’s mind but warrant greater attention.
This research takes a more comprehensive view at policies and aims to disentangle Florida’s political barriers to solar PV, defined as any legislative or regulatory disincentives to deployment, and assesses their respective weights in slowing greater solar adoption. Second, it explores the underlying reasons for their existence and, third, identifies strategies sub-state actors such as counties and cities use to stimulate solar within the existing state-level policy framework.
In this endeavor, the theoretical and empirical literature on barriers to renewables provides a scaffold for a total of 19 semi-structured expert interviews with industry experts, and county-and city-level officials representing both sides of the argument. The interviewees provided their assessment of the biggest political obstacles and reasons underlying them, which are then presented in aggregate alongside the findings distilled from secondary research. County-and city-officials provided best practices in incentivizing deployment at their level of government.