Fight for solar rights in Jacksonville continues as scandals pile up at JEA

By Ben Delman on January 23, 2020

JEA, the publicly-owned utility that serves Jacksonville, has been in the news a lot recently. It has been subject to a months-long effort to privatize the utility. This deal fell apart amid stunning accusations of self-dealing by JEA leadership. Several high-ranking JEA officials would have made millions of dollars once a deal went through.

This led to the firing of JEA’s CEO. Its Chief Financial Officer, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, VP of Government Affairs Officer, and board member, Andy Allen all resigned. A federal investigation is now underway. The move to sell JEA appears to have ended for the foreseeable future. Other issues with the utility remain. The ability of Jacksonville residents to install their own solar is first among them.

This whole mess has cast a new light on JEA’s decision in 2017 to end its net metering program. Net metering is the system utilities like JEA use to credit solar owners for the excess electricity they produce. Florida law requires utilities like JEA to offer net metering. We were puzzled by the decision at the time.

JEA’s action to abruptly end its net metering program fits into the desire of leadership to sell. Cutting out potential competition from solar homeowners was a way to make the sale even more attractive to a potential buyer. By ending net metering, JEA effectively put going solar out of reach for most Jacksonville residents.

We filed a lawsuit against JEA in the Spring of 2018 to protect solar rights. After a multi-day hearing, and months of waiting, the court ruled in JEA’s favor last November. Frustratingly, the judge included no explanation in the ruling as to why she decided the case as she did. While this outcome is not ideal, we expected the case would be appealed regardless of this court’s decision. We have filed to appeal the decision.

We expect the appeals court will hear the case in the next several months. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about the latest news about your solar rights.