Nelson files bill to expand solar industry in Florida

Dec 4 • 120 Views • View Comments

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) filed legislation today designed to drastically boost investment in renewable sources of energy, such as solar.

If approved, Nelson’s legislation would make it easier for banks to invest in renewable energy companies by allowing them to own a larger share of such companies. It would also make it easier for banks to provide financing to homeowners looking to install solar panels on residential rooftops.

Under current law, banks are prohibited from owning more than five percent of a non-financial company – including those that produce renewable energy. Nelson’s bill would encourage banks to invest more in renewable energy companies by allowing them to own up to 20 percent of a company that’s engaged solely in producing or storing renewable energy.

“Florida is the nation’s Sunshine State but ranks twelfth when it comes to solar production,” Nelson said. “That needs to change. This bill will make it easier for homeowners to invest in their own solar installations while, at the same time, making it easier for larger renewable energy companies to access the capital they need to expand and create more jobs in Florida.”

Proponents of the plan argue that by allowing banks to invest more in renewable energy companies, Nelson’s bill makes more capital available to renewable energy companies, which will make it easier for them to expand and create more jobs.

In addition to increasing investment in renewable energy companies, Nelson’s bill would also make it easier for banks to provide financing to homeowners looking to install solar panels on their own residential rooftops.

One of the greatest barriers currently preventing homeowners from installing solar panels on their own rooftops is the initial, upfront cost. A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 40 percent of homeowners have given serious thought to adding solar panels to their own roofs.

Despite the potential demand, very few banks offer financing to homeowners seeking to add solar panels to their own roofs because they either don’t know how to underwrite such a loan, or they are afraid of penalties if they get it wrong.

Nelson’s bill would make it easier for banks to offer consumers the financing they need for such projects by directing the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to create uniform underwriting standards that banks can use to offer such loans to consumers.

The renewable energy industry employs more American workers than both the coal and natural gas industries combined. According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, 547,000 Americans work in the renewable energy sector compared to 160,000 in the coal industry, and 362,000 in the natural gas industry.

Of the more than half a million people who work in the renewable energy industry, fewer than 15,000 work in Florida. In fact, Florida currently ranks twelfth in the nation for solar energy production – trailing behind states such as California, Texas and North Carolina.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household in Florida spends $132.16 per month on electricity, almost 16 percent more than the national average. By helping to make financing more available, Nelson’s legislation would make it easier for consumers to install their own solar rooftop installations to reduce their annual energy costs.

 

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