Solar businesses concerned about JEA proposal

Ken Amaro reports March 2, 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Pete Wilking is in the business of turning sunshine into electricity.

"The solar industry has been growing rapidly,"said Wilking, "about 40 percent a year."

Six years ago, Wilking launched A1A Solar. He now employs 50 people.

"The majority of our work is on JEA's grid," he said.

Wilking said the JEA pays solar customers 11-cents per kilowatt hour for excess energy, also called the buyback rate. But under a new proposal, JEA would cut that to 7.5 cents.

Wilking called the proposal regressive, saying it diminishes the incentive to invest in solar energy. "That is going to impact severely the economics of someone who is choosing to go solar," he said.

And that, said Wilking, will have a domino effect on small solar businesses like his.

"If the economics get strained to the point where it is not feasible for a customer to go solar it has effectively crushed the Roof Top industry in JEA's territory," he said.

Sara Boren, director of policy for the U.S. Green Building Council, said she too is concerned.

"I think the concern is the JEA is rushing into this and that it would be prudent to get the program details correct," said Boren.

There are just over 500 homeowners and commercial solar customers using JEA's electric grid.

Boren said it is clear that JEA is being proactive in a changing energy landscape, but wondered why the changes are being proposed now.

"Can we wait until solar is 10 or 20 percent of their their portfolio before it starts disincentivizing a sector that is creating jobs?" said Boren.

JEA issued this statement via email:

"JEA is committed to bringing more solar to our community and for making Jacksonville a “solar-friendly” city. We plan to triple the amount of solar capacity that we currently have while keeping rates equitable for all electricity customers.

"JEA has the responsibility to balance affordability, environmental requirements and reliability of its service on behalf of its customers. That is one reason why we are making a proposal to our board to change our net metering policy."

Any final decision is slated to go before the board at the JEA April meeting.

JEA has scheduled three public forums on the issue. The panel will be facilitated by JCCI with reps from JEA and the solar community presenting their views on net metering.

  • March 14 at 6:30 p.m.  -- The Legends Center at 5054 Soutel Drive
  • March 28 at 6:30 p.m. -- FSCJ South on Beach Boulevard
  • April 4 at 6:30 p.m. -- FSCJ Kent Campus on Roosevelt Boulevard

The U.S. Green Building Council will have a forum on March 9 at Jacksonville University's Gooding Auditorium between 6:30-8:00 p.m.


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