Florida voters reject solar solar-energy ballot initiative

- A controversial solar-energy ballot initiative fell short of the 60 percent voter approval it needed Tuesday, concluding for now one of the most-expensive constitutional amendment campaigns in Florida history.

Opponents who argued the amendment would hinder the development of alternative energy in Florida, celebrated the defeat of the measure, known as Amendment One, as most counties continued posting results.

As of 9:30 p.m., the amendment had received support of about 51 percent of voters --- far below the 60 percent threshold, according to the state Division of Elections website. Aliki Moncrief, executive director of the group Florida Conservation Voters, says the vote is a clear signal that Floridians want more access to clean solar energy.

Consumers for Smart Solar, a utility-backed group that spearheaded the proposal, didn't immediately comment. The state's four major private utilities --- Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric and Gulf Power --- collectively spent more than 20.2 million dollars on the proposal, which sought to place existing regulations regarding solar energy into the state Constitution.

Powered by the utility money, Consumers for Smart Solar spent over 25 million dollars to get the measure on the ballot and to advertise and campaign for the amendment, which it said would protect consumers. But critics contended the measure could lead to "discriminatory charges" against rooftop solar users, as the ballot language said that people who haven't installed solar on their property "are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do."

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