JEA Gives Utility Customers Bill Credit To Lower Average May Electric Bill By $25
JEA customers should expect a significantly cheaper electric bill in May.
The JEA Board of Directors met virtually Friday afternoon to discuss a way they can help customers during the coronavirus pandemic. They decided to implement a bill credit for May, which they say will lower the average customers utility bill by around $25.
“We've experienced lower fuel prices of late and tremendous efficiency of our generating fleet and system dispatch, which has led to improved operations and created an opportunity to share these savings with our customers,” said Joe Orfano, JEA’s Interim CFO.
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JEA puts up to 15% of its fuel costs aside to protect customers against price spikes. But if fuel prices drop - as they have - then JEA returns that savings to customers.
Normally, Orfano said, that money would be spread out over the course of the year, but the COVID-19 crisis has changed their thinking.
“In the last few years, we've opted to lower the fuel rate, but at this time and during this pandemic, we believe that this is the right thing to do for our customers,” Orfano said.
According to a presentation from JEA, the average residential customer’s electric bill is $108.50. With the fuel credit of $24.96, the bill would drop to $83.54, saving a customer 23% on their May utility bill.
JEA officials also say they will launch a communications campaign to tell customers if they would rather pass on those savings to people who are more in need, there are options to do that.
“We will provide suggestions to make it easy for them to share their credit with others impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kerri Stewart, the VP and Chief Customer Officer.
Stewart said JEA officials considered giving customers a physical check, but that would increase the chance of complications.
“Checks may get lost in routes or within the household,” Stewart said. “Customers would have to call JEA for a replacement check, which happens with our current check cashing process. Now, a portion of our customers do not have bank accounts. So they’d have to pay a fee to cash the check and would have to go out in public into a public building to cash that check.”
JEA also considered a prepaid debit card, but there would be a service fee involved, and the vendor couldn’t commit to getting the cards out by the middle of May.
Interim CEO Melissa Dykes also confirmed that JEA will not disconnect service or waive late fees during the pandemic. If customers are having trouble paying their bills, Dykes said they are encouraged to call (904) 665-6000 to arrange a payment plan or connect with other community resources.
“In the meantime, we continue to provide our customers with tips on water conservation and ways to save money while sheltering at home for both electric and water,” Dykes said.
Beginning Monday, April 6, the credit card fee charged by third-party vendors will also be waived for an undetermined amount of time.
As for JEA workers, Dykes said employees that can work from home currently are, and those that can’t are working on staggered schedules to make employee gatherings smaller. JEA is providing personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to all employees on-site and in the field.
Since JEA employees are considered essential, those who are suspected of having COVID-19 can receive priority screening at the Duval County Department of Health, Mayo Clinic and UF Health Jacksonville.
Sky Lebron can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.