December 7, 2017 Read More →

U.S. Senate Bill Aims to Loosen Investment Restrictions for Florida Solar Industry

WTLV (Jacksonville):

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson introduced legislation this week that could further expand the solar industry in Florida by allowing banks to invest heavily in the renewable energy sector, a financial move which is currently banned under Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation regulation.

Under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, bank holding companies (BHCs) may invest in businesses engaged in non-banking activities, but are limited in the amount of outstanding stock they can control. Currently, BHCs are only allowed to control up to 5 percent of any non-banking company.

Florida’s senior senator wants to increase that amount up to 20 percent for companies that engage solely in the production or storage of renewable energy, a stimulus for BHCs that could potentially flood the renewable energy sector with capital needed to expand.

“Florida is the nation’s Sunshine State but ranks twelfth when it comes to solar production,” Nelson said in a press release Monday. “That needs to change.”

Nelson’s ranking of Florida’s solar production is a generous one at that. The Portland-based commercial research company Solar Power Rocks ranked Florida No. 26 overall in its 2017 U.S. Solar Power Rankings.

A total of 11 policy and incentive factors are used in the ranking of each state. Some of the factors include electricity cost, net metering, rebates and performance payments. Florida scored low on all weighed factors except for net metering and tax exemptions.

According to Nelson, allowing BHCs to invest more freely in the relatively untapped marketplace would make it easier for those financial institutions to offer financing to homeowners for the instillation of rooftop solar power systems.

Pricing for the instillation of a rooftop solar power system varies widely from state-to-state, but the average homeowner can expect to pay upwards of $21,000 before tax credits, according to HomeAdvisor. Banks have been hesitant to approve loans for such homestead modifications, giving rise to third-party financing via solar power purchase agreements.

Nelson says his “Green Banking Act” would direct the Federal House Finance Agency (FHFA) to create uniform underwriting standards that banks owned by BHCs could use in the offering of loans to homeowners looking to go green.

More: Bill Nelson looks to expand Florida’s solar industry through ‘Green Banking Act’

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