By Emily Derrenbacker, a Stetson University student
When it comes to energy production, Florida hasn’t exactly lived up to its reputation as “the sunshine state.” According to the Energy Information Administration, only about 4% of Florida’s net generation came from renewable energy sources in 2019.
The clean energy industry is growing quickly, offering Florida a great opportunity to catch up and become a leader in the shift to renewable energy. Renewable energy is increasingly being used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Florida is one of the most susceptible states to the ravages of climate change: sea-level rise, increased frequency and severity of hurricanes, and rising temperatures.
Part of the reluctance to make the transition to renewable energy stems from the pervasive belief that it is not good for the economy. This is wrong.
According to Market Watch, if you are looking for job growth and skilled jobs, look no further than the clean energy industry where the number of jobs is increasing faster than the rest of the economy. In addition, this industry now employs nearly three times more people than that of fossil fuels.
Jobs in the clean energy industry are high-paying skilled jobs. Clean energy jobs pay on the whole 25% more than the national median wage. They and are more likely to come with retirement and health-care benefits, too.
Clean energy jobs aren’t limited to solar panel installers. The industry offers skilled jobs in areas like clean energy storage and grid modernization. The number of jobs in these areas is increasing faster than any other sector because energy grids across the United States are outdated. The consequences can be severe, as evidenced by the power outages in Texas earlier this year.
Unfortunately, power companies in Florida have made it difficult for homeowners to install and benefit from solar panels. In fact, Florida is one of only eight states that prohibit the sale of solar electricity directly to consumers unless the provider is a utility.
Essentially, this prevents Floridians from participating in the energy market. Homeowners who have solar panels are required to sell their excess power back to the utility company—they are not allowed to sell it to anyone else.
Florida has much to gain by embracing renewable energy. Consider that Florida is home to seven of the hottest cities in the United States. The majority of Florida’s land mass sits at a very low elevation relative to sea level. So, maybe it is also safe to assume that Florida has the most to lose.
Florida’s legislature needs to pass policies that send consistent signals to the market that renewable energy should be supported. Many other states have adopted renewable electricity standards and energy efficiency standards. Why shouldn’t Florida do the same?
We have used coal, natural gas, and oil for decades despite the fact that seven million people die every year from air pollution created by fossil fuels. The physical dangers that fossil fuel generation poses should be enough reason to make the United States shift to renewables. Fossil fuels also might leave us reliant on other countries for energy.
Because of Florida’s climate, the state is in a prime location to take advantage of solar, wind, biomass, and other forms of clean and renewable energy. The United States is shifting to renewable energy whether Florida leads this process or not.
Florida can join this movement or be left behind. I think this is an easy choice to make.
Emily Derrenbacker lives in Stuart, Florida and attends Stetson University where she is a junior studying English, Political Science, and Sociology.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.