TAMPA — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced plans to launch Florida’s first statewide energy equity study at a Tuesday news conference in the Robles Park neighborhood.
The study will “help those who need it the most,” she said. “We need to understand systemic inequalities, the barriers and disparities and all the factors that keep vulnerable communities trapped in a cycle of energy inefficiency and higher energy costs.”
National studies show that Black, Hispanic, and Native American families spend a larger portion of their income on energy bills than white families. The energy burden for households of color also correlates with higher risk for respiratory disease and increased levels of stress, according to a 2020 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
The median energy burden for Black and Native American families was more than 40 percent higher than white households. For Hispanic households, it was 20 percent higher.
Last year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Energy launched a $1 million grant program to assist low-income families with high energy bills. This year’s study will analyze energy use across the state.
Fried said 5 percent of Floridians spent more than half of their income on housing costs, including energy bills. Energy efficiency upgrades can reduce the burden, she said.
Earlier this month, Fried — the only Democrat elected to statewide office — announced her bid for governor. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, is also in the race.
Former state representative Jennifer Webb, who once represented District 69 but lost reelection last cycle, said these are issues that the Legislature has known about but failed to address. With this study that will collect and analyze the data, she said, “there will be no more excuses.”
The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg provides partial funding for Times stories on equity. It does not select story topics and is not involved in the reporting or editing.