Last Thursday FPL took applications for the remaining 2012 solar rebate funds. As expected, funding ran out quickly… as in under two minutes!
My employer had quite a few rebate applicants lined up for solar electric systems. I decided before the rebate website went live that I wouldn’t post the results or my reaction in a knee-jerk manner. While I was angry and disappointed, I wasn’t surprised. Now that the dust has settled, I can respond effectively.
We did secure rebates for some of our customers, but any process that rewards rebate applicants for being able to type fast is just silly. I have criticized the process and the program before, but now I am more convinced than ever that it needs revamping. Its not good for consumers or contractors, and it fails to effectively reach the stated goal of increasing adoption of distributed solar energy in Florida.
I’ve recommended a lottery approach in the past, but that is hardly fair either. I truly believe that the only way to fix the program is to significantly reduce the rebate amount (per watt), or the maximum rebate per customer.
Florida has a sad history of overly-generous solar rebates with unintended consequences. The press from these botched programs feeds two beliefs that are severely damaging to the industry:
1. Solar electricity is only viable with a state or utility rebate. While free money certainly helps, the unintended consequence is that few people are willing to go solar, or even contemplate an investment in solar if the handout is not available. With prices so much lower than just a year or two ago, this is no longer the case!
2. Rebates are not guaranteed. This is the sad result of the Florida Legislature’s failure to fully fund an incentive program that was passed into law and was clearly intended to be funded. The FPL rebate is “guaranteed” to the extent that you follow through with some basic obligations, and to its credit the company has been lenient and helpful toward rebate applicants and contractors.
I applaud FPL’s willingness to implement a solar incentive program. I wish they would make it so much better by reducing the rebate amount, allowing more consumers to participate, helping contractors develop a sustainable industry, and maximizing the amount of installed distributed solar energy with the limited availability of rebate funding.