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Challenge To JEA Solar Policy Rejected

Rooftop solar panels
Wikimedia Commons
Rooftop solar panels

An appeals court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit that contended Jacksonville’s municipal utility violated a state law when it changed a program that provides credits to customers who generate electricity through rooftop solar panels. 

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that the nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors did not have legal standing to pursue the case against JEA. The lawsuit centered on credits that JEA provides to customers whose rooftop panels produce more energy than the homes use. 

Starting in 2009, customers received credits at the retail rate of electricity, according to the ruling. But in 2018, JEA reduced the amounts of credits, linking them to the costs of buying fuel for power plants. 

“In JEA’s view, while customer-generated solar energy reduced the utility’s cost of electric generation by negating the need to purchase fuel, it did not reduce JEA’s capacity costs to operate and maintain the electrical grid,” said the ruling, written by Judge Rachel Nordby and joined by Chief Judge Lori Rowe and Judge Thomas Winokur. 

Related: Is Rooftop Solar Under Threat In Florida? If So, Jacksonville Could Offer A Glimpse Into The Future

Solar United Neighbors, which works to organize utility customers into solar cooperatives, argued that the change violated a state law dealing with “net metering” programs that involve property owners generating electricity. 

A Duval County circuit judge ruled in favor of JEA. The appeals court upheld that ruling, saying Solar United Neighbors, which is based in Washington, D.C., had canceled plans for a Jacksonville cooperative and could not show legal standing. 

“The cooperative never materialized because SUN canceled it before the scheduled launch,” Nordby wrote. “And SUN failed to identify, with any degree of certainty, a customer base who, but for the 2018 policy, would have participated in the cooperative. At most, SUN identified a couple of willing individuals.” 

The ruling said Solar United Neighbors receives fees from contractors selected to install solar equipment for cooperative members.