U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, has criticized a bill pending in the state legislature that opponents say will limit the growth of energy adoption solar on the roofs.
The legislation, SB 1024, intends to revise Florida’s net metering policy, which allows customers to be reimbursed for excess electricity that their solar equipment sends back to the power grid. If the bill becomes law, customers who own or lease solar equipment could see about a 75% decrease in their reimbursement rate, according to CNN.
Crist, who served as governor from 2007 to 2010, said smaller states do a much better job of solar generation than the Sunshine State.
“New Jersey and Maryland produce more solar power than Florida, the Sunshine State,” Crist said. tweeted on February 3. “A bill that removes incentives for solar panels is bad for homeowners, jobs and our environment.”
In 2013, Crist said Florida “produces virtually no solar power,” which PolitiFact Florida rated as Mostly True. We wanted to check the numbers and find out if Florida was really lagging behind New Jersey and Maryland’s solar production.
Florida has increased its solar production
One way to gauge the accuracy of Crist’s claim is to measure each state’s installed solar capacity—the power-generating potential of installed solar equipment.
In 2012, the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, ranked New Jersey and Maryland third and eighth respectively among states for installed solar capacity.
It might surprise people that smaller states surpassed the Sunshine State, but it was true back then: Florida didn’t crack the SEIA top 10, placing 17th.
That said, the situation has changed.
In 2021, Florida ranked third in the United States for installed solar capacity, with 7,765.1 megawatts. California was first with 32,209 megawatts and Texas came second with 12,309 megawatts. (One megawatt equals 1 million watts.)
New Jersey and Maryland dropped in the rankings in 2021. New Jersey ranked seventh with 3,826 megawatts of installed solar capacity, and Maryland was 17th with 1,396.5 megawatts.
The results were similar when comparing each state’s latest solar generation numbers – the actual amount of electricity produced.
Florida produced more than 7,500 megawatt hours in 2020, the US Energy Information Administration estimated. (A megawatt-hour equals 1,000 kilowatts of electricity generated per hour.) New Jersey produced nearly half the solar power that Florida and Maryland produced one-fifth.
“It’s possible that former Governor Crist is talking about something outdated,” said Susan Glickman, director of Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, a coalition of healthcare professionals concerned about climate change.
Florida lags behind in rooftop solar
Most of the growth in solar generation in Florida is coming from utility companies, not residents installing panels on rooftops.
The percentage of solar generation from small-scale installations, including homes and businesses, in New Jersey and Maryland is much higher – around 65% each.
About 15% of Florida’s solar generation comes from small-scale installations, according to the EIA.
Although Florida has enough solar power installed to power more than one million homes, only about 90,000 homes in the state are powered by solar power, according to the state’s Civil Service Commission, which regulates public services.
Florida ranks 21st in the nation for residential solar systems per capita, according to an industry analysis conducted by SEIA. New Jersey placed 10th and Maryland 13th. (The analysis is not publicly available, but SEIA has confirmed the ranking with PolitiFact.)
This difference is largely due to Florida’s solar policy.
The state does not allow power purchase agreements, which provide for a developer to install a solar power system on a customer’s property and sell the generated electricity to the customer at an often lower fixed rate. at retail price.
The SEIA estimates that 83% of New Jersey’s residential solar systems are the result of power purchase agreements and similar third-party solar financing.
Florida also does not have a standard renewable energy portfolio policy, which would require utilities to meet a certain percentage of a state’s energy needs with renewable energy such as solar power.
Florida’s Energy Portfolio
When we asked Crist’s campaign about the tweet, a spokesperson said Crist was referring to the percentage of electricity New Jersey and Maryland get from solar power.
While Florida has more installed solar capacity and generation, only 4.04% of the state’s electricity comes from solar generation.
This difference is most pronounced in New Jersey, where more than 7% of its electricity comes from solar power. In Maryland, however, the difference with Florida is minimal, with 4.43% of the state’s electricity coming from solar power.
Florida, which is the nation’s second-largest electricity producer, derives three-quarters of its net generation in the state from natural gas, according to the EIA.
Yet there is no doubt that Florida produces far more solar generation than New Jersey or Maryland.
“Florida has more annual solar production, period, than Maryland and New Jersey,” Justin Vandenbroeck, president of the Florida Board of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told PolitiFact.
Crist said New Jersey and Maryland “produce more solar power than Florida.”
The raw numbers don’t support it. Florida generated significantly more solar electricity than New Jersey and Maryland in 2020 and currently ranks third in the United States in total solar power generation capacity.
Where Crist has more of a point is that smaller states get a greater share of solar power from small-scale installations, such as homes and businesses. And despite its sunnier skies, Florida’s overall share of solar energy is less than New Jersey and Maryland (but barely).
Crist’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it mostly wrong.