Sunshine State to Get More Rooftop Solar as Florida Eases Rule

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(Bloomberg) -- Expect to see a lot more solar rooftops in Florida.

The Sunshine State is removing a roadblock to consumer solar leasing, an arrangement that drove a boom in U.S. rooftop power systems. The decision will let Sunrun Inc., the largest U.S. residential-solar company, expand in the state.

Utilities are the only entities that can legally sell electricity in Florida. Sunrun challenged an interpretation of that policy and the Florida Public Service Commission ruled that the company’s 20-year solar-equipment leases don’t constitute a retail sale of electricity.

“Sunrun will be able to lease rooftop solar equipment to homeowners without being considered a public utility,” the commission said in a statement Friday.

Leases let consumers get rooftop panels with little or no upfront costs. Without that option, Florida homeowners had to pay for the systems themselves or finance them, and that helped utilities like NextEra Energy Inc.’s Florida Power & Light Co., fend off a wave of residential solar.

“The commission’s vote to grant our petition is a critical step toward broadening access to solar energy for Floridian households,” Anne Hoskins, chief policy officer for San Francisco-based Sunrun, said in an emailed statement. NextEra didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Florida is a promising solar market. Even though there are no state clean-energy targets, Florida ranks third in the U.S. in terms of potential rooftop solar and 12th in installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“Florida was already going to be a growth market,” Hugh Bromley, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in an interview. “This could supercharge that.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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