Florida's energy efficiency score slipped in the latest national evaluation of state programs released Wednesday, with below average utility and appliance standards as a leading cause of the drop.
Though its overall score fell from 17.5 to 15.5 out of 50 points, the Sunshine State's national rank rose to a tie for 27th from 29th.
The annual report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranked Massachusetts as No. 1 with 42 points followed by California with 41. Both of those states ranked high in their utility policies and funding for energy efficiency. California also set such goals as zero net energy construction — meaning homeowners essentially have no monthly electric costs from a utility company — on all new residential buildings by 2020 and new commercial facilities by 2030.
ACEEE's report noted that Florida has several energy efficiency policies in place but does not enforce them or provide financial backing to run them.
"Though Florida has set long-term energy savings goals for utilities, the lack of funding for efficiency programs has severely limited progress in the utilities sector," according to the report.
"To truly improve its energy savings, Florida should focus on implementing the policies already on its books."
Florida ranked below the nationwide median in four out of six categories, including energy efficiency by utilities, combined heat and power, state-led initiatives and appliance standards.
The state ranked above average for transportation and building codes.
ACEEE recognized Mississippi as the most improved state. Mississippi set new goals for utilities to implement quick start energy efficiency programs by January.
"I view it as a purely economic issue," said Brandon Presley, a Mississippi Public Service commissioner and president of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. "For every dime we can save, it helps our state. It saves us from building new (power) generation.
Presley, speaking during a news conference about the report, said his state works to ensure utilities continue to generate the needed revenue despite the move to reduce electricity use. He said the utilities earn a return on the energy saved.
But the primary goal is to benefit customers, he said.
"We're solely focused," Presley said, "on what we can do to keep our citizens' money in their own pockets."
Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.