TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When it comes to clean environment and efforts to keep it that way, a new WalletHub study says Florida is near the bottom of the ranks for the United States. Despite its title as the Sunshine State, Florida is only reported at No. 40 for the site’s “Greenest States” 2022 report.
According to WalletHub, states were ranked by 25 factors, including air quality, water quality, soil quality, how many buildings were LEED-certified per capita, proportion of renewable energy used, level of energy consumption per capita, and gasoline use per capita.
LEED certification is a worldwide rating system for construction of “green buildings.” The program, called “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” is a third-party certification program started in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council.
While Florida was the fourth lowest energy use per 100,000 residents, it ranked in the middle of the pack for environmental quality at No. 25, while it had a rank of 41 for eco-friendly behaviors and ranked 39th for contributions to climate change.
Part of the Florida score is a lower amount of renewable energy used in the state.
According to data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Florida has “significant solar energy potential as well as substantial biomass resources and small amounts of oil and natural gas production.”
However, the state only uses renewables for about 6% of its overall energy consumption. Across the U.S., the average was 23.2% in December 2021. That said, the state still produces the second largest amount of electricity in the nation, second only to Texas. Most of the energy produced comes from natural gas generation and nuclear energy.
The EIA said “Florida is the third-largest electricity consumer in the nation, after Texas and California,” but does not produce enough to meet its own power requirements. Households on their own use more than 50% of the state’s power, according to the agency.
Florida consumes nearly eight times more energy than it produces, according to the EIA.
Aside from the potential for renewables created by the amount of sun the state gets, “Florida has few other renewable energy assets,” the EIA reports. “The state’s flat terrain gives Florida little opportunity for hydropower development” and the state does not have “significant” wind resource options for power generation.
Despite only minor crude oil reserves, petroleum use in Florida is high. Most of the petroleum consumed in Florida is delivered from other states or outside of the U.S.
The WalletHub study found that states with Republican political leaders skewed lower on the ranks for how “green” they are. Florida, being one of several states with a state government triplex or a state where the governor’s office and both legislative chambers are led by the same party, was included in the politically defined score.
On average, WalletHub said Republican-led states averaged 35.76 for eco-friendliness, while Democratic-led states averaged 15.24. Their study notes that the smaller the number is, the more eco-friendly a state is.
Renewables are an option to address building more eco-friendly power generation, particularly with rooftop solar in residential areas. However, a bill proposed in the legislature and still awaiting sign-off from Gov. Ron DeSantis may remove the economic incentives, potentially blocking progress on the solar power front.
House Bill 741, if passed, would take away future residential consumers’ ability to make additional money back and lower their power bills through solar generation at their own homes, through net metering changes. The bill, should DeSantis approve it and sign it into law, would take away the savings customers with solar power get when excess power is produced by their photovoltaic arrays.
A Tampa-based solar power company owner said the bill will end solar power as it is currently used in the Sunshine State.
DeSantis’ “signature will mean the end to solar as we know it here in Florida,” former Navy Seal Steve Rutherford, now the owner of Tampa Bay Solar, told 8 On Your Side’s Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli. “Basically it is a gun to the solar rooftop industry’s head.”