ADORA OBI NWEZE
Elections rarely offer an opportunity for communities of color to directly impact the structure of our economy or our household budgets. With so much focus on who will succeed Barack Obama, the November elections call for communities of color to be just as focused on structuring solar energy policy to meet our needs for affordable electricity rates and access to innovative electricity technology.
Voting yes on Amendment 1 is a step communities of color can take to fulfill those needs.
Amendment 1 makes changes to our constitution that provide us with important consumer protections. As more consumers install rooftop solar panels and generate their own electricity, their reliance on their utility’s electric grid will decline. Along with this decline in grid reliance comes also a decline in what the solar consumer pays for electricity.
Paying less for electricity, it goes without saying, is great for budget-conscious consumers. Consumers who have the ability and willingness to invest in solar should do so.
However, there is a downside to increased solar participation – a downside that Amendment 1 addresses. As solar consumers contribute less to maintaining the electric grid, consumers who continue to rely completely on the grid will be left picking up more of the cost of the grid. This means the possibility of higher rates imposed on the poor.
Fortunately, Amendment 1 allows state and local governments to correct this unfair and regressive result. By voting “Yes” on Amendment 1, voters ensure that this important consumer protection and civil rights tool is put in place.
Buy or lease
Voting “Yes” on Amendment 1 also provides consumers with a Florida state constitutional right to buy or lease solar panels. In my opinion, this promotes access to innovative technology that will provide communities of color with additional legal leverage when breaking down barriers to solar markets – whether as a consumer or as an entrepreneur.
Let’s use this fall election as an opportunity to ensure fairness in energy policy. Let’s also use our vote to protect the economic status of communities of color by voting “Yes” on Amendment 1.
Adora Obi Nweze is a life member of the NAACP and president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.