Solar advocates file suit against JEA, Jacksonville’s Electric Utility to protect our right to go solar

By Ben Delman on April 23, 2018
Solar supporters stand up for their solar rights at November’s JEA board meeting.

Solar United Neighbors and the League of Women Voters have filed a legal challenge against JEA, Florida’s largest municipal electric utility. This action comes in response to JEA’s violation of state law by short-changing customers who want to use rooftop solar energy.

Under a policy that went into effect on April 1, JEA claims to be implementing “net metering” – but is actually not doing so. Net metering is the system utilities like JEA use to compensate solar owners for the excess electricity they produce – and is required by Florida law. Solar customers are supposed to be able to offset their energy consumption from the grid by lowering their bill by the exact amount of energy they produce. For example, if solar homeowners use 850 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in a month — and they produce 400 kwh of electricity from their solar panels, their total electric bill (the net) should be for 450 kwh of electricity. JEA no longer wants to do that.

Under its new policy, JEA will purchase excess energy from a solar customer for 3.25 cents per kilowatt hour. It will then turn around and sell it to other, non-solar customers right next door for 10.3 cents, all calculated on an instantaneous basis.

“Besides being an unfair and bad deal for solar producers, JEA’s policy will devastate the rooftop solar market,” said Earthjustice attorney Bonnie Malloy. “That’s not what the law intends.”

JEA’s flawed policy significantly reduces the value of rooftop solar. It roughly doubles the amount of time a solar customer can recoup the cost of their investment – from 10 years to 20 years.

“Jacksonville homeowners want to go solar,” said Angela DeMonbreun, a Jacksonville resident and Solar United Neighbors of Florida Program Director. “But without fair compensation for the electricity we generate, few of us can do so.”

While interest in and adoption of rooftop solar is rapidly growing in the state, Florida remains behind other states. True “net metering,” with fair compensation, is one of the few pro-solar policies in effect in Florida and is essential for rooftop solar to expand.

“Communities across Florida are embracing solar because it is an economically feasible way to use a clean energy source,” DeMonbreun said. “Jacksonville is the largest metropolitan area in the state and this new solar policy is truly backwards – it prevents residents from using solar energy to take control of where their electricity comes from.”

“Our volunteers have helped launch 28 solar cooperatives around the state, and it is unfair for our Jacksonville citizens that the recent changes in net metering policy by JEA puts solar out of reach for them,” said League of Women Voters of Florida President Pam Goodman.