JEA approves price increase for customers, bonuses for employees

More delays, cost increase for Plant Vogtle; Proposed deep well project expected to cost $2 billon

Your JEA bill will soon be going up.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Your JEA bill will soon be going up.

The cost of the natural gas that fuels JEA power plants has increased and, in turn, that increase is being passed on to consumers.

JEA is facing some other added costs as well and despite all of that, the utility’s board voted Tuesday to give employees a bonus.

The cost of the projects will be billions for the publicly-owned utility over the next 12 years, and some of that will hit consumers by the end of this year.

Part of the reason is it’s costing JEA more to generate the electricity to power homes.

JEA used to have a surplus of money to pay for those increases, but it’s running out. That’s why this winter the average monthly bill is expected to increase by about $6 at first but down the line, it could increase by nearly $10 dollars a month. That increase was approved by the JEA board Tuesday.

“The customers will pay what we pay and I think it will be a more transparent method. It’s something that is common across the industry,” JEA CEO Jay Stowe.

Also Tuesday, state utility regulators approved a series of base-rate increases for Florida Power & Light that will result in higher monthly bills for customers in January.

But it does not stop there. On Tuesday we heard more about what JEA may have to do to clean up the St Johns River. Soon, new state rules will no longer allow JEA to dump treated wastewater into the river.

JEA will have to use more expensive methods to clean the water, for example using more reclaimed water for yard irrigation.

JEA is also considering plans to drill wells and pump the treated wastewater into the aquifer to be cleaned naturally. That could run close to $2 billion in the next 12 years — a cost that is expected to be passed along to customers.

JEA is also learning about more delays for the controversial Plant Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia.

In 2008, JEA originally made a deal to pay $1.4 billion to get electricity from the plant. But delays and bankruptcies have pushed it to a nearly $3 billion commitment and the plant wont be ready until late next year at the earliest. That cost is also eventually going to come back to customers’ wallets.

On top of all that on Tuesday, JEA agreed to give a 3% bonus to nearly all its nearly 2,000 workers this year. Stowe’s contract does not have a bonus clause but he said the bonus is important to workers who did not get the bonus last year.

“I think it helps support the employees and then, therefore, helps support the customers. It is a reasonable cost and it’s in our budget and review with the city council.”

Those bonuses will cost JEA about $5.5 million.

The fuel adjustment charge will take effect this winter, either December or January, and could vary each month, but it can’t go up more than 20%.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.