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JEA closes coal-fired power plant, reducing the utility’s carbon footprint

JEA headquarters exterior
Bill Bortzfield
/
WJCT News

Jacksonville’s municipally owned electric utility, JEA, has closed a power plant in Juliette, Georgia, replacing its coal-fired electric power with natural gas through a power purchase agreement with Florida Power & Light Co.

JEA and FPL have jointly owned Plant Scherer, Unit 4, since 1991. Plant Scherer is the biggest coal-fired power facility in the country with four power generating units. Unit 4, operated by Georgia Power, stopped operating on Dec. 31, 2021.

“By replacing power from Plant Scherer with natural gas, JEA has lowered operating costs and substantially reduced CO2 emissions by approximately 1.3 million tons per year,” said JEA spokeswoman Karen McAllister

While natural gas does produce about half of the carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas driving climate change) of coal when it's burned for energy, methane frequently leaks into the atmosphere from gas drilling sites and pipelines. Methane is 84 to 86 times more potent than CO2 at warming the atmosphere over a 20-year period.

Related: Under JEA’s SolarMax program, companies can get 100% electricity from solar

According to JEA, the utility has reduced its carbon emissions by 53% since 2007, largely thanks to the Plant Scherer decommissioning and the closure of the St. Johns River Power Park coal-fired plant in 2018.

The power purchase agreement with FPL is for 20 years.

“The intent is fairly long term on this,” said Garry Baker, senior director of energy system operations at JEA. “That doesn’t mean our overall strategy long term is this; this is just one component of our strategy going forward.”

JEA currently gets just 1% of its energy from renewable sources, according to the utility’s most recent data. But JEA’s Integrated Resource Plan, which is currently in progress, could see the utility place more of an emphasis on renewable energy in the future.