Innovative energy bill sails through Florida House

A bill that would allow local governments to loan money to homeowners for renewable energy and storm-resistance improvements passed the House.

HB 7179 by the Energy & Utilities Policy Committee passed after amendments that would extend the state solar energy rebate program were rejected. The bill establishes the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which allows homeowners to repay the loans with non-ad valorem assessments on their property tax bills. The bill has support from environmental groups and was pushed by House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton.

“The biggest challenge most Florida homeowners face is paying the upfront costs to retrofit their homes with energy improvements,” Hasner, R-Delray Beach, said in a statement. “PACE presents a common sense, innovative policy initiative that will remove this significant financial burden for homeowners and allow them to buy solar panels and implement energy efficiency in their homes.”

Two amendments by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, were not allowed. Her HB 1267 would have charged utility customers 25 cents a month to go towards a state solar energy rebate program that ran out of money last June. The bill was never heard by a committee. The rebate program is expected to have a backlog of $25 million in rebate applications by June 30. The PACE bill supported by the Republican leadership “does something for moving ahead with renewable energy but it does not go far enough” Rehwinkel Vasilinda told the House.

The Florida Solar Energy Industries Association supported the PACE bill and Rehwinel Vasilinda’s amendments, said Bruce Kershner, the association’s executive director.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)