Crist hints at saving cash-strapped solar rebate program

Florida’s solar energy rebate program is broke and due to expire, but Gov. Charlie Crist indicated Tuesday he would consider helping the program during a special session.

The state established the solar rebate program in 2007 to provide up to $20,000 for home solar panels and up to $500 for solar water heaters. The Legislature last year provided no money for the program, but the state received $14.4 in federal stimulus dollars that went to the solar rebates. But that money was quickly used up on applications submitted the prior year. Crist requested $10 million for the rebate program in 2010-11 but the Legislature provided no money.

Last week, there were 9,565 rebate applications pending in excess of $25 million, according to the Governor’s Energy Office. The program is scheduled to expire without legislative reauthorization by June 30. HB 1267, which would have extended the program, died without being heard by committees in the House.

Crist said Tuesday that a special session of the Legislature is needed to consider a constitutional amendment banning oil drilling and ways to foster renewable energy, which he said includes wind, solar, nuclear energy and natural gas. And he indicated that the solar rebate program could be looked at as well. “That’s another part of the beauty of a special session that deals with that issue,” he said. “We may be able to get additional help for those going solar.”

(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)