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Jacksonville environmentalists push for 100% renewable energy by 2050

You can join the conversation on Thursday evening at Aardwolf Brewing Company for the first meeting of River Rising: Brewing Up Solutions.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Environmental advocates are teaming up in Jacksonville with the goal of getting the city and JEA to commit to using more renewable energy.

They want the city to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. You can join the conversation on Thursday evening in the first meeting for River Rising: Brewing Up Solutions, a new series put on by St. Johns Riverkeeper’s Water Policy Group. It starts at 6:00 p.m. at Aardwolf Brewing Company in San Marco.

JEA Spokesperson Karen McAllister states at the start of this year, two percent of JEA's energy came from renewables and that the company has reduced its carbon emissions by 53 percent in the last 15 years. 

The goal of getting to 100 percent in less than 30 years may seem like a tall order, but St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman says a dozen other Florida cities have already committed to it.

"We are here in the Sunshine State so there's opportunities for us to really commit to solar and renewable energies by taking local steps now," Rinaman said.

Rinaman wants JEA and the city to commit to 30 percent renewable energy by 2030, avoid relying more on coal, and to decommission the Northside Generating Station. Rinaman said this at a JEA meeting last week and JEA CEO Jay Stowe said the following.

"I also want to recognize that there's 250 employees that report to every day the Northside Generation Plant and we need to be able to consider all of the implications of all of our decisions to take care of all the people, the customers that we serve, the employees that we serve and support," Stowe said.

Rinaman agrees there is a lot to consider economically, which is where the Brewing Up Solutions meetings come in.

First Coast News asked if JEA officials believe operating at 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 is possible. They didn't answer yes or no, but pointed to their Electric Integrated Resource Plan. This is their plan where they work with interested parties to try to figure out how to use different energy options.

After an initial reply, a city of Jacksonville spokesperson did not respond with an answer as to whether or not the city and the mayor are willing to commit to the goal.

Learn more about River Rising: Brewing Up Solutions here.

Keep watching Good Morning Jacksonville for updates on this story including an in-depth interview on the subject with Stowe.

Read JEA's emailed responses to First Coast News's questions for this story here:

I see in the link here that 1 percent of the energy last year was generated from renewables, which it says includes solar and methane gas. Is there/what is the plan to use more renewables?

JEA is committed to being a responsible steward of the environment. We work to meet our customers’ electricity needs and assure system reliability and resiliency in a manner that is environmentally and economically sustainable. 

JEA currently is engaging a coalition of community stakeholders to evaluate the prospects for further incorporating cleaner and more renewable assets into our generation portfolio going forward. Since January 2022, we have worked with a group of community leaders – including the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida and St. Johns Riverkeeper - to guide the development and operation of JEA’s electric system for the next three decades in our Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) process.

As of the beginning of this year, JEA’s energy mix is comprised of:
Natural Gas: 57%
Coal and Petroleum Coke: 10%
Renewables (Biomass, Landfill Gas and Solar): 2%
Purchase Power: 31%

Do JEA officials believe operating at 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible?

We're currently engaging a coalition of community stakeholders to evaluate further incorporating more renewable assets into our generation portfolio. The Electric Integrated Resource Plan is estimated to be completed late Spring 2023.

We've been told by Sierra Club that one of the first steps they want is for the Northside Generating Station to be decommissioned before 2030. Would JEA do this and how would that impact energy generation? What percentage of energy is generated from that station?

Since January 2022, we have worked with a group of community leaders – including the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida and St. Johns Riverkeeper - to guide the development and operation of JEA’s electric system for the next three decades.

We appreciate the community engagement in this important work to balance environmental stewardship, customer needs, reliability and cost. We look forward to continuing the open and transparent IRP conversation with Sierra Club, St. Johns Riverkeeper and all of our Northeast Florida stakeholders through the end of the year.

JEA’s Northside Generating Station is a critical asset for maintaining electric system reliability, a service it provides while consistently remaining in full compliance with all applicable national and state air quality regulations and standards. The plant uses natural gas, fuel oil, biomass, coal and petroleum coke in three baseload generating units. Units 1 & 2 have some of the lowest emissions of any generating units in the country using similar fuels. Northside’s Unit 3 operates almost exclusively on natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, switching to oil only as a reliability back-up during times of natural gas system curtailments, disruptions or price spikes. In addition, Northside has often been one of the most economical supply options.

Can you point to one thing JEA is doing that is expected to make the biggest difference in generating energy from alternative sources?

JEA is embracing a brighter energy future. From solar power to biomass and methane gas, JEA is diversifying our electric generation to include a variety of renewable energy sources. JEA has reduced its carbon emissions by 53 percent since 2007 with the closing of St. Johns River Power Park in 2018 and the unit we co-owned at Plant Scherer in January 2022.

What is JEA's comment on the campaign to get the city and JEA to commit to operating on 100% renewable energy by 2050?

We appreciate engagement by the Sierra Club and St. Johns Riverkeeper in this important work to balance environmental stewardship, customer needs, reliability and cost. We look forward to continuing the open and transparent IRP conversation with these organizations and other Northeast Florida stakeholders.

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