Locals suing for net metering, utility wants scale and energy storage

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JEA, formerly known as the Jacksonville Electric Authority, as of April 1, 2018 removed net metering, and lowered the rate paid  of for any excess electricity produced that would have prior been net metered. A group of solar advocates – Solar United Neighbors – has been pushing back since the fall of 2017 when this change was originally proposed.

On April 19, 2018 the group filed a lawsuit (PDF) stating that JEA’s removal of net metering violates state law requiring net metering. The lawsuit also notes that “energy sent to the grid by a rooftop solar customer is credited at the fuel rate (currently 3.25 cents/kWh) on an instantaneous basis”. The utility currently charges 10.3¢/kWh for electricity generation, and credits that amount to solar power accounts.

Documents provided by Solar United Neighbors show more of what the utility is thinking. The JEA Board Agenda, October 17 2017 (PDF) when the ruling was proposed, shows more than just pushback against net metering and bill credits.

The below image is from the above document – and it shows some evidence of solar growth on the larger scale.

Yellow highlighted sites are expected to commission by end of 2019/early 2020. Sites not highlighted are the 32 MW awarded through JEA’s Phase 1 -3 Solar RFPs. Sites in green font are already online and producing.

The document references an energy storage program in development – $2,000 incentive for a residential installation – and the large scale solar program above, as part of the Universal Solar Expansion and Land Acquisition. Projects in this program see to be sized as much as 50 MW each – and the utility notes that the quotes they’re getting for pricing per kWh are approaching the utilities current fuel price of 3.25¢/kWh.

Of course, the pages immediately following those two program proposals are where we see net metering chopped back and the fuel fee applied.

This lawsuit and the utility actions show the stress between end users aiming for personal energy democracy via solar power, and a utility aiming to keep a century old business model going strong. We saw Elon Musk and Warren Buffett fight this out explicitly in Nevada.

Interesting, as this solar power lawsuit is going on – this same electric utility is suing to have itself removed from the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant being expanded in Georgia. The facility is currently priced at $27 billion, after many price increases and delays. In the document, the board recommends that the utility change a 2010 policy from requiring 30% of its electricity to come from nuclear – to now requiring 30% of its electricity from come from, “nuclear, solar, biomass, landfill gas, wind or other clean sources”.