The Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy (FARE) is the state’s largest renewable energy trade association, with hundreds of businesses and thousands of supporters across Florida and the United States sharing the common cause of advocating for legislative policy that would create a long term, distributed marketplace for renewable energy in Florida. Primarily FARE advocates for small and mid scale renewable energy projects that are built by independent project developers. The 2014 Legislative Session will be FARE’s 7th year of leading efforts to bring the critical issue of local job creation and local economic growth through renewable energy to the front and center stage of legislative priorities for Florida. FARE represents roofers, electricians, installers, manufacturers, cities, counties, local elected officials, and individuals all across the state.
FARE has a short but meaningful history, starting out in 2008 on a plane ride to Tallahassee, where a half dozen solar contractors and one British banker squeezed in to a rented Cessna with broken air conditioning for a 4 hour trip to the State’s Capital. As they traveled through the hot Florida sky, they hatched the plan of action. They would soon testify in front of the Florida Public Service Commission about what is considered to be the most effective renewable energy policy in the world - the Feed in Tariff. With a message of delivering maximum value to the ratepayers of Florida, they showed the PSC a simple recipe for how to deploy the most amount of renewable energy in the shortest amount of time, at the least cost to the ratepayers. Unfortunately pragmatic deliberation did not win the day, but so began the movement to bring a distributed energy policy to Florida. As the summer after their testimony ended, FARE was established as an official trade and advocacy organization, structured as an independent chapter of the Alliance for Renewable Energy.
2009 - As the 2009 Legislative Session began, FARE supported House Democrat Keith Fitzgerald in sponsoring Florida Legislature’s first Feed Tariff bill (HB 1703). The bill was considered groundbreaking in the Florida legislature. Now for the first time ever the Feed in Tariff concept began to work the Florida political process. The next level of success required moving through the House Energy & Utilities Committee (HEUC). The next major victory was having the HEUC Chairman, Republican Paige Kreegel, adopt the bill language and include it in the general Policy Council Bill (PCB) to be introduced by the committee. FARE coordinated testimony in front of the HEUC by officials from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) including the Chair and Vice Chair of EPIA, and top level executives from SolarWorld, Q-Cells, Phoenix Solar, SMA – America, and Dexia. Following these testimonies, FARE worked with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), to coordinate a legislative visit from former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, who brought a message that resonated with a conservative legislature – establishing energy security. Director Woolsey met with Governor Charlie Crist as well as House and Senate Leadership, while having a powerful op-ed placed in the Tallahassee newspaper. In the final days of legislative session, the House Energy and Utility Committee was blocked from ever introducing a bill, due to House leadership who had a bill of their own - an offshore oiling drilling bill. When the Senate produced and passed Florida’s first RPS legislation and refused to pass the oil bill as a trade, all renewable energy bills died, and the 2009 session came to a close with no renewable energy policy whatsoever. Although the session ended with no policy, FARE had accomplished a huge victory against entrenched opposition, bringing newfound attention to renewable energy policy in Florida. In the summer of 2009, FARE became an official trade organization and began its steady push to become the leading renewable energy advocacy group in the state.
2010 - During the 2010 Legislative Session, FARE’s primary activity was introduction of legislation titled “The Florida Farm to Energy Act” (SB 2346). This bill was co-written by FARE and the Florida Farm Bureau, with the help of an NREL Analyst, and contained the best practices of FITs by establishing the fixed price, fixed contract precedent. FARE continued the critical process of coalition building. By opening our doors and membership to roofers, electricians, farmers, architects, and many more types of advocates, in addition to the stalwart solar contractors that had been the only voice for renewable energy for quite some time, FARE established itself as a group who advocate for all types of energy and all types of installers, not just a select few companies or a select type of installations. 2010 marked a big win for FARE in the fact that we crossed technology lines, leaving the technology specific bubble of solar energy and bringing in both biomass and wind power to our advocacy efforts. We are very proud of our strong working partnership with the Florida Farm Bureau, the largest agricultural interest in the state. Working with the Florida Farm Bureau was a critically important strategic partnership because of the longstanding relationships and overall pro-agricultural policy standpoint of the Florida Legislature. For a brutal second year in a row however, all energy policy in Florida was stifled by the House Leadership, who were intent to pass an offshore oil drilling bill.
2011 - Leading in to the 2011 Legislative Session, FARE was a founding member of a coalition of powerful and hardworking advocates. The Distributed Energy Coalition was formed to advocate for distributed energy policies, was founded by FARE, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Retail Federation, the Space Coast Energy Consortium, the Florida Brownfield’s Association, the Florida Renewable Energy Association (FREA), the Florida Feedstock Growers Association, the Florida Green Building Coalition, and the Florida Conservation League. The Coalition wrote and supported the introduction of the Distributed Energy Act (SB 1724), which would have allowed utility companies to raise their electricity rates by 2%, using 80% of the funds to self build renewable energy projects and the other 20% to purchase electricity from independently built systems through a competitive market mechanism. Unfortunately the only bill that was ever heard during the 2011 session was similar to the Distributed Energy Act but instead gave 100% of the funding to the utility companies, with only a token 2.5% of funding being given to small scale systems in the form of rebates. This bill, known as the “utility bill”, also died at the end of the 2011 Legislative Session due to cost concerns, marking the 4th year in a row that the Florida Legislature failed to pass a meaningful renewable energy policy.
2012 - The 2012 legislative session marks a dark time for renewable energy in Florida. With more campaign promises than you can shake a stick at, elected officials wholly dropped the ball and missed the mark for meaningful energy policies. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who actually had huge picture of solar panels on his campaign bus, took control of the state's energy division, which was rolled in to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). DACS put forth a weak, tepid piece of legislation which essentially offered some tax credits to producers of renewable energy. This primer is being written 2 years later and to this date we are unaware of anyone who has been taken advantage of this incentive. The commissioner and the legislature patted themselves on the back for the success of this "modest" step towards a renewable energy future, thereby galvanizing their utter lack of interest in actual meaningful renewable energy policy.
2013 - When you aren't on offense, you are on defense. After many years of fighting against the utilities and the legislature for renewable energy policy, as the industry in Florida is knocked back on it's heals from exhaustion, the offensive against renewable energy slowly begins. The people and businesses f Florida foolishly put faith in new Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, who is young and presumably forward thinking. Sadly Speaker Weatherford is just more of the same, proving his unchallenged willingness to protect the status quo and utility company monopolies. As FARE and other industry members get fed a whole bunch of disengenous talk, the session ends with no legislation whatsoever related to energy except for the valiant effort of removing statutes currently on the books that laid out a template for a state RPS should Florida decide to implement one.
2014 - The backwards slide against renewable energy drops even further. In an interesting twist, House Leadership actually steps UP their effort to block distributed generation even more. A simple tax exemption for commercial solar systems was presented in the form of HB 825 and SB 916. This exemption would essentially exempt the cost of a system from an increase in ad-valorem property taxes. The legislation would have allowed the voters of Florida to decide if they approved this measure. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ritch Workman blocked this simple commercial solar tax exemption from even getting a hearing, and thereby blocking the voters of Florida from even having a say on the matter. To make matters worse, the legislature did find time to eliminate the solar rebate program, which is now defunct, but still owes a backlog of $25 million to rebate holders from 2008 and 2009. This program is considered the only vehicle to pay back the rebate holders who were left on the hook by the state.
2015 - Marks the year that the people of Florida finally take their energy future in their own hands.....