Florida lags behind other leading solar states, according to a new report released today by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and its national federation. The report, Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013, shows strong solar growth across the nation and ranks the states on the amount of solar per capita through 2013. While solar in Florida grew from 186 megawatts in 2012 to 213 megawatts in 2013 – a 7 percent increase, it lags substantially behind other states, ranking 19th in the nation for the amount of solar per capita in 2013. Nationwide, solar capacity tripled in the last two years to more than 12,000 megawatts.
“Solar energy is on the rise across the country, but Florida is falling behind other leading solar states in capturing the environmental and economic benefits of this pollution-free energy source,“ said Jennifer Rubiello with Environment Florida. “The Sunshine State can get back in the race on solar by following the example of other leading solar states.”
Ten states with the most solar per capita – Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina – had 87% of the solar power in the U.S., yet represent only 26 percent of the population. The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.
And as the solar industry grows, the cost for installed solar decreases; making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013. Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 4,000 in Florida. This makes Florida the 7th highest ranked state for solar employment.
Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions. According to the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.
“Solar energy can play a key role in meeting Florida’s energy needs while reducing pollution that contributes to global warming,” said Rianna Eckel with Environment America, Environment Florida’s national federation. “Increased use of solar is a good way to meet the targets in EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, designed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.”
Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”
· -9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
· -9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
· -All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
· -9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
Federal programs, including critical tax incentives and programs like the Department of Energy’s Sunshot Program, designed to drive down the cost of solar, also play an essential role in solar progress. Additionally, EPA’s recently proposed Clean Power Plan, designed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, could be an important driver for investing in pollution-free energy, like solar.
“The solar progress we’ve seen to date is the result of a partnership between local, state and federal officials,” said Rob Sargent, Environment America’s Energy Program Director. “States looking to expand solar can look to the example of the leading solar states who’ve put strong programs in place and have coordinated with federal officials in order to succeed.”
“Florida’s officials should recognize the environmental and economic benefits of solar and take action to make it a reality,” said Sargent. “As more people see the benefits of solar energy, we hope that clean, limitless energy from the sun will be a growing part of Florida’s plan to reduce pollution from power plants.
Environment Florida Research & Policy Center is a state-wide non-profit environmental group dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.