‘Dramatic increase’ in JEA bills frustrating customers

JEA’S CEO says it’s not the utility’s fault

Several people sent emails describing the costs of their JEA bills as outrageous. Now the News4JAX I-TEAM is getting answers for our viewers who are asking, "Why is my JEA bill so high?"

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Customers frustrated with spikes in their JEA bills reached out to the News4JAX I-TEAM, and we contacted the city-owned utility to get some answers.

Paul DeLisle told the I-TEAM his bill has slowly been increasing the last few months and then dramatically went up this month. He looked more closely at his bill and discovered the biggest jump is a fuel cost charge.

“The cost is almost 2 and half times higher,” he said.

DeLisle was charged $133.26 on his August bill. That same fuel charge was just $56.94 on his bill in August 2021.

“I emailed JEA twice. I have not gotten one response,” he said.

DeLisle said he feels blindsided by the sudden increase.

LET US KNOW: Have you seen an increase in your JEA bill?

Another viewer, Marsha, emailed the I-TEAM and said, “in just five days my bill has jumped $195.” Customer Jennifer Henry said her JEA bill this month is $737 for a small three-bedroom, two-bath home.

“Before the recession, we were accustomed to receiving bills that were well under $300 a month,” she said.

Another customer, Roy Public, told us his electrical usage was nearly the same price as the fuel cost he was charged this month.

“I’m noticing my usage cost is $99. They are charging me $96 as fuel charge on top of my usage,” he said.

Customers frustrated with spikes in their JEA bills reached out to the News4JAX I-TEAM, and we contacted the city-owned utility to get some answers.

We took these complaints to JEA, and managing director and CEO Jay Stowe told us it’s not JEA’s fault. He acknowledged that JEA bills have increased dramatically, but blames the increase on the skyrocketing price of fuel used to generate electricity. The price hike was also blamed on the elevated demand for fuel following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“There are a lot of factors as to why natural gas prices have increased, one of them is the war (between) Russia and Ukraine,” Stowe said. “Russia is not selling natural gas to Europe and so liquified natural gas is being shipped from the U.S. to Europe. That is driving up demand. When the demand increases, it causes costs to go up.”

We checked the historical price of natural gas. Last August, it was $4.69. This week, it’s $8.12. We asked Stowe if JEA can offset the cost so the increase is not passed on to customers.

“We do everything we can to manage the cost. We purchase gas ahead of time and we try to take a look at the cost and manage it as best we can, but we have to pass that on to our customers because it’s important that we cover our costs,” he said. “We are not making a profit. We are a locally owned not-for-profit utility. We try our best to keep our costs down to serve our customers.”

Stowe said some customers think that if gas prices are dropping, then the fuel charge should be dropping, too. He said the two are not connected.

“They are two different commodities, so they are not tied together,” he said.

Stowe said on Aug. 1, JEA suspended disconnections of electric and water service due to delinquent payments and waived newly accrued late fees to address high utility bills because of the increased fuel costs and higher consumption during the extreme heat of the summer. The grace period, however, will expire Sunday, Sept. 18.

We asked Stowe if fuel costs remain high, would JEA consider extending the suspension. He said, no. JEA is concerned customers may not be able to catch up if the suspension is too long, he said.

Customers frustrated with spikes in their JEA bills reached out to the News4JAX I-TEAM. We took these complaints to JEA, and managing director and CEO Jay Stowe told us it’s not JEA’s fault.

The bad news is that Stowe said he expects fuel costs to remain high for a few more months and they may not level off until the spring. He said, however, as we enter the fall months, customers should see a decrease in their bills. Cooler temperatures should prevent customers from running their A/C as much during the day, reducing their electricity usage.

“We do everything we can to manage the cost purchase gas ahead of time and we try to take a look at the cost and management as best we can but we have to pass that onto our customers because it’s important that we were cover our cost we are not making a profit,” Stowe said.

DeLisle said he’s just trying to hang on until prices come down. He’s cutting every way he can on his monthly expenses.

“I shop every special, BOGOs at the store. I go to three or four stores instead of just going to Publix, like I used to. I don’t hardly go anywhere anymore,” he said.

What can you do to reduce your electricity consumption?

With the current rise in JEA bills, here are some things you can do at home to reduce the amount of electricity you use, which should drive down that part of your bill.

JEA said your home’s heating and cooling system is the biggest “electricity guzzler.” To reduce your consumption of electricity, it recommends:

  • Set your thermostat at 78 degrees when it’s hot.
  • Keep the thermostat setting on “auto.”
  • Set the temperature 5 degrees warmer when leaving your home for more than one hour.
  • Change your air filter every month. A dirty air filter makes your system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Run ceiling or table fans in addition to air conditioning to keep you cool, but be sure to turn off your fans when you leave the room.

JEA will perform an energy efficiency audit on your home for free. JEA employees will visit your home and identify how to reduce the consumption of electricity. Just call 904-665-6000 to learn more.

JEA said it is trying to help its customers offset the fuel costs. Starting in October, JEA will no longer charge a fee to customers who pay by credit card and the utility is returning deposits to new customers after a year of good payments, instead of waiting 24 months.


About the Authors:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.