This week, the Florida Legislative Budget Commission declined to allocate $31.4 million in federal funding for energy rebates, prompting an angry press release from Gov. Charlie Crist.
The funds include $13.8 million in unspent stimulus funds set aside by the Florida Energy and Climate Commission to pay for a portion of the state’s backlog of more than $50 million in unpaid solar energy rebates. The rest would have provided rebates to people who installed more efficient heaters and air conditioners.
In a memo sent Tuesday, Crist called on lawmakers to authorize the funds:
As you are aware, the Florida Legislature created the popular solar rebate program in 2006 to encourage homeowners and businesses to switch to solar power, and due to the program’s extreme popularity, a $52 million backlog exists. Thanks to the good work of Florida’s Energy Office, the United States Department of Energy has agreed to authorize the use of $13.9 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to reduce that backlog. Without your action, these funds cannot support Florida’s economic recovery.
Florida House Speaker Larry Cretul shot back in a letter claiming that under Florida law, only the full legislature — and not just the budget commission — could authorize the funds.
The backlog occurred in part because many people who installed solar panels on their homes checked online and saw that rebates were still available, when in fact they had already been depleted.
Cretul blamed the Florida Energy and Climate Commission:
What is also unfortunate is that the backlog of solar rebate applicants was in great part caused by the failure of the FECC to announce that funds were depleted, thus duping the citizens of Florida to believe they were eligible for a rebate that was no longer available. Not only did the FECC fail to notify the public timely or adequately that the funds had run out, they failed to even post such notice on their website until months after the funds had been exhausted.