Written by Jimmy Orth, Executive Director

JEA, the largest community owned utility in Florida, is in the process of creating an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that will guide the way it generates and delivers electricity for the next 10 to 15 years. The plan is scheduled to be finalized by January 2023. Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, is a member of the IRP Stakeholder Group.

JEA currently has no timeline for decommissioning its coal-fired Northside Generating Station and renewable energy accounts for less than 2% of its energy generation portfolio.

As a result, the Northeast Florida group of the Sierra Club has launched the Renew Jax campaign to encourage JEA and the City of Jacksonville to commit to 100% renewable energy, such as solar, by 2050. Twelve other Florida cities have already committed to exclusively using renewable energy on or before 2050, demonstrating this is a reasonable request and timeline.

St. Johns Riverkeeper supports the Renew Jax campaign and recently provided the following recommendations to the JEA Board of Directors. Read “Riverkeeper, Sierra Club tell JEA to address Northside plant pollution in Florida Politics.

  1. Do not expand coal use
  • Expanding coal use would cause unnecessary harm to our river, to our community and to our planet. We know too much to take a step backwards.
  1. Decommission the Northside Generating Station by 2030.
  • Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the reliance on coal
  • Eliminates surface water withdrawals used as once through cooling water, resulting in thermal discharge into the St. Johns River
  • Eliminates coal handling and coal ash disposal risks to the river
  1. Commit to 30% renewable energy sources by 2030.
  1. Commit to 5% residential rooftop solar by 2030.
  1. Implement aggressive residential energy efficiency and weatherization programs.
  • This should include meaningful subsidies for low-income customers to weatherize their homes and reduce energy use and electric bills.
  1. Commit to 100% Renewable Energy Sources by 2050.

Climate change poses a significant risk to the health of our St. Johns River and all Floridians. A warming planet is intensifying storms and increasing water temperatures and water levels.  More frequent flooding and an increase in stormwater runoff means more pollution and sewage overflows washing into our river. Warmer waters leads to more algae blooms and fish kills, while rising waters cause more septic tanks to fail and salt water to contaminate our aquifer.

We certainly must invest in resiliency strategies to prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change. But, we must also dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are errantly warming our planet and putting us all at risk.  

Here are some ways you can help: