JEA board approves rate changes

Changes could mean a lower bill for some, but for others, particularly those on a budget, their bill could go up

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The JEA board on Tuesday approved rate changes, which, for some, could mean a lower bill, but for others, particularly those on a budget, their electric bill could go up.

And News4JAX learned that customers should plan on future increases over the next few years.

By the time the new JEA headquarters opens in about a month, customers could see some changes on their JEA bills, and those changes could go either way. And because of a new nuclear power plant in Georgia that JEA is helping pay for, that is going to cause your bill to go up, as well.

News4JAX caught up with JEA customer David Anderson while he was paying his bill and told him about the base rate increase.

“Terrible,” Anderson said. “But if it’s going to help, I guess I have to deal with it. I have no other choice.”

That choice was made with a unanimous vote by the JEA Board of Directors. That means, starting in April, the base rate — what customers pay for services like billing — will jump from $5.50 a month to $15. But staff at JEA says that will be offset by the fuel charge, which is coming down.

But those on a budget who don’t use as much electricity might find their bill going up by $3 to $5 a month because the fuel savings won’t have as much of an impact on them.

Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition was the only member of the public physically at the meeting speaking out against the plan.

“In the absence of compromise, I’m here to tell you that this proposed increase in the basic monthly charge is a sham and a scam,” he said.

News4JAX asked JEA CEO Jay Stowe about that.

“We are, for our average customer, they will see reasonable rate change,” Stowe said. “And we always have to be aware of what the impact on the people that are least able to pay our bills are, and we watch that every day.”

And something else JEA is watching is what is happening with the nuclear power plant it is helping to build and fund in Georgia, Plant Vogtle. JEA will eventually get a substantial portion of its power from the plant. But the project is way over budget, and its opening date has been delayed yet again. At the end of this year, JEA will be paying $140 million for the plant. But that’s far from the last of it. Next year, that will jump to $234 million, and those bills continue for the next 21 years. But Stowe said we are already paying for it.

“But the rate increase is tied to the cost of Plant Vogtle. That is, in large part, the last several that we’ve had, and we would anticipate to have other rate increases and changes in the coming years tied to, in large part, Vogtle,” Stowe said. “We will continue to manage our costs the best way we can.

The next JEA board meeting is going to be at the new building.

About the Authors:

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