History in Florida: Ladies & Gentlemen Start Your Engines, The Solar Race Has Begun

This is a guest blog by Delany Reynolds student activist and founder of MiamiSeaRise.com

The City of South Miami enacting its new residential solar mandate tonight, a law that we began working on nearly two years ago when I wrote local Mayors and asked them to help me create a law here in Florida patterned after the one San Francisco had just passed, just might be my most important work to-date.

South Miami passing the law tonight makes Florida only the second state in the United States where a municipality has such a law (the other being California) and only the fourth city in our country that will now mandate solar power be  installed in newly built homes or those subject to material renovation. Tonight’s brave decision by the South Miami City Council is historic and certainly a step in the right direction towards my dream that we can turn the ‘Sunshine State’ of Florida into ‘THE Solar State’.

And that started tonight with 4 Council members voting in favor of the law and 1 against it in what I will now call The Solar City of South Miami!

Thanks to Mayor Stoddard for supporting my dream as a then 16 year old child when I wrote a letter in early 2016 asking for his and South Miami’s support. Mayor Stoddard, who was recently named number 47 on the Politico 50, has frequently told the story about how he responded to me by offering his support as long as I would help write the law. As I thanked him for his response I pointed out the obvious fact that I had no idea on how to actually write a law and he responded by saying that he would teach me the basic process.

Imagine my surprise when our fist meeting, a session I would have guessed might take an hour, took six hours. That time and the last year and a half’s work by many folks at the City of South Miami have been a worthwhile investment that will now see the new law benefit our environment and the residents of South Miami as well as, I hope, acting as an inspirational example for others to follow.

Thanks also the the City Council for listening to my comments at the various public meetings this Spring and Summer as well as for engaging in such a healthy debate on the topic while taking into consideration the public comment that such a large number of people shared with you. That debate and process made the law better, and initially makes it more reasonable and helpful for citizens. Thanks as well to the City Administrators that helped improve and craft the law, who helped with research and who are passionate about making things better for the community.

Now that the new law has been passed some might act if that’s the the end of the discussion and work. The answer is a loud NO, it’s actually just a starting point. A beginning upon which we can now work to educate people about the benefits of solar power and the savings that they can enjoy.

I envision community based educational programs to teach people more about how solar works. And a program to bring local contractors together to cost effectively bid on the cost to install a system and, in doing so, lower that cost.

And I can envision that next steps should include creating funding programs to help reduce or even eliminate the cost of a solar installation, especially for low to moderate income folks like what my brother Owen touted the District of Columbia is doing in Washington D.C. So, the key to all of this is that the law is by no means a destination but more of a starting point upon which to build and educate.

And if anyone is asking whether implementing the new laws and all that follow will be easy that, too, is also a resounding ‘no’.

The hard work aside, one reason that implementation and everything else that will now follow will be challenging has to do with those who have fought it, thus far, and will most certainly continue to fight such change. We won an important battle with the law’s passage tonight but the ‘war’ is far from over.

And how do I know this? Well, the many public meetings in recent months saw those against such a change, namely developers and builders as well as our local power utility, FP&L, speak against it time and time again.

The overwhelming majority of Realtors surveyed believe that owned

PV (solar) systems increase the market value and marketability of homes.”

Developers and builders expressed ‘concern’ over the mandate adding costs to homes and that leading people to not be able to afford to buy from them. The good news is that that is not a very valid concern. Not at all.

First, the local real estate market in South Miami (and South Florida) is robust. People love living here and are paying record prices for homes, homes often filled will all sorts of costly technology, kitchens or bathroom fixtures that you’ve never heard a builder suggest impacted their ability to build or sell a home. But they are somehow against solar and residents having free power from the sun?

Having solar power will only make these homes more valuable and more marketable and we know this is true based on research which we shared at last week’s Council meeting. According to a report, for example, from the Colorado Energy Office, real estate professionals explained that a home with solar power is “typically increasing market value and almost always decreasing marketing time.

We also know that the impact of the new law will be minimal. Over the last three years South Miami’s Building Director has informed me that there have been 8, 6 and 1 new home built within the City. That’s an average of five homes per year. And as to renovations, the Council moving the definition from 50% to 75%, or for that matter excluding small homes, means that the law will impact very few existing homes. Or as the Building Director wrote me when I asked his view of the impact on existing homes, “we do not believe that there would be many of those.

So while I’d like to see it impact more homes, and will work to find ways to increase its impact, the factual initial number will be fairly small.

Not small, however, appears to be FP&L’s concern over the proposed new law and my guess is that they will work hard to fight it and do almost anything to protect their business. You need only look at FP&L’s shameful attempt to mislead voters last year on Amendment 1 here in Florida, and in the process reportedly spent millions of dollars trying to deceive voters on before losing. Or as another, more recent, example learning how they donated large sums of money to State Senators and Representatives in return for those politicians’ support on laws that FP&L reportedly wrote nearly word for word. Don’t believe it? Just read Mary Ellen Klas’ fine work entitled “Hooters ‘calendar girl’ and Playboy ‘Miss Social’ were Artiles’ paid consultants” about the role they played in disgracing former Miami Senator Frank Artiles, a vocal FP&L ‘supporter’. #ThanksFrank

FP&L and established power companies all over America like them are a serious challenge to implementing our sustainable energy future in which solar and wind power and other solutions must replace fossil fuels and those challenges could be vividly seen by everyone watching last Tuesday’s Council meeting.

First there was the ‘retired’ FP&L employee who spoke out against the law and announced that he had driven all the way from Palm Beach to South Miami to speak against the proposed law. Palm Beach? Seriously? His rehtoric was the same as we hear in their ads about how low their rates are and how much they ‘love’ solar power but those statements are either sales talk to protect their massive revenues or outright lies.

FP&L’s very own Annual Report proves that I am right by stating that they produce less than 1% of their energy from solar power (to learn more about this click here to read my blog FP&Lies). And when you combine that fact with the fact that FP&L has been in business for nearly 100 years then it’s clear that they have not supported solar and are only now saying these things, or building a small installation here or there, because they rightfully feel threatened by knowing that consumers’ polls make it clear that people want sustainable power solutions like solar. And Speaking of polling, with hundreds of people voting, a new poll just out from Curbed Miami had 78% of the people voting saying ‘Yes, more Florida cities should require installing solar panels on new homes.‘.

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But, it was not only the speaker’s comments that tell the story last week about FP&L’s concerns and likely future battles to come. It was the four other people from FP&L that were present, watching, taking notes and looking an awful lot like lawyers, that would suggest both how seriously FP&L is taking The Solar City of South Miami’s new law and that they are preparing for battle. And you know what?

FP&L feeling threatened or paying attention or whatever you want to call it and sending so many people to the meeting is actually a good thing. The sooner we get the facts out to the public, the sooner the debate becomes public, the better because our region and country simply do not have time to waste protecting fossil fuel energy solutions.

Let the Race Begin.

As Mayor Stoddard said so beautifully during the recent debate, its time that we start racing side by side against established power companies such as and including FP&L and see who gets to the solar power finish line first.

Waiting, or for that matter standing by and watching the race is not an option and will not help our society. It’s time to put our ‘foot’ on the pedal and accelerate sustainable solutions in the United States so that fossil fuels soon become extinct. It’s either we make this transition to sustainable power now starting right here in South Florida’s very own Solar City of South Miami, or we face the very real possibility that much of our region becomes extinct.

To learn more about the City of South Miami’s new Solar Ordinance, click here.

PS: Speaking of polls, I spent the day today in New York at the MTV studio here working on an incredible new project that I promise to tell you about very soon. Until then let me share that MTV tells me that 86% of its viewers say fixing our planet’s climate crisis is their number one concern. With poll results like the 78% noted above, or the 86% MTV told me about today, it’s clear that despite what you read in a tweet from Washington or see in some misleading ad from a power company that Americans want to see fossil fuels come to an end and that should give us all great hope.

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