For those of you who don’t know, the largest utility in Southwest Florida, FPL, is giving away money – lots of money! If you ever had an interest in solar panels, NOW is the time to act. There is money available for solar electric systems and solar water heating systems, and combined with record low prices on solar panels, this is an amazing opportunity. The program is a huge success, but I want to talk about how FPL can improve the Solar Rebate Program, especially the rebate for solar electric panels.
FPL is offering $2 per watt of installed system rating with a residential limit of $20,000 (for a 10 kilowatt system). Smaller systems qualify for the same $2 per watt rebate amount. Most homeowners install around 5kW and receive a $10,000 rebate. How can this be improved? REDUCE the rebate amount!
What?! Huh?! No – don’t say that!!! You’re in the solar business!
Stay with me here as I explain. The first round of rebate funding ran out in under 15 minutes. That’s how much demand there was. That’s how unbelievable this deal is. That’s great, but there are some serious downsides to the program as it stands:
- Only 310 lucky people received a rebate reservation in the first round of funding.
- The first-come first-served system isn’t really fair – it benefits mainly people who can type their application fast on the FPL website. With this level of demand, a lottery would be a more fair distribution of funds. (Note: a lottery could have negative consequences for solar dealers who would not be able to predict future business.)
- Solar contractors must race to get all of their sold systems installed in a 90 day window to have the rebate paid, then there is almost no work for the next 9 months. Who is going to buy solar without a rebate if they know one is right around the corner. This makes it very difficult for qualified solar installers to stay in business and employee people year-round.
If the rebate program can “sell out” in under 15 minutes to 310 customers, how long would it take to sell out at $1 per watt? 50 cents? 25 cents? How many more people would install systems?
If FPL’s goal is truly to get more installed solar capacity in Florida, they would get the best bang for their buck by reducing the rebate amount to maximize the amount of solar electricity installed! Under the current scenario, FPL actually reduces the amount of solar energy installed in Florida, and essentially controls the market. They can predict quite well how much solar will be installed in a given year, and maybe that is their intention. The math is quite simple – if they devote half of the $15.5M annual program budget to photovoltaics, somewhere around 3.75 megawatts per year would be installed and interconnected to the utility.
Imagine the impact if the rebate amount were reduced. I’m willing to bet that if the rebate amount were cut to 50 cents per watt, 1/4 of the current amount, that four times the number of systems would be installed, especially if the installation window were increased to 9-12 months. This would help bring much more solar power to the utility’s system, and would keep solar dealers humming along installing systems year-round, employing more people and creating a greener future for everyone in Florida.
What is FPL’s motivation? What constraints exist from the Public Service Commission approved program? I don’t know all of the answers, but I’d sure like to hear from FPL about my proposal!