New Sierra Club Report Gives JEA An ‘F’ For Its Climate Goal

Jan 26, 2021


A new report from the Sierra Club on utility climate pledges gives JEA an F grade for its climate goal.

According to the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization’s new report, called “The Dirty Truth About Utility Climate Pledges,” Jacksonville’s city-owned utility is aiming to make 30% of the energy it provides carbon neutral by 2030.

That goal is far less ambitious than many of the other utilities included in the report and earned JEA a score of 4 out of 100.

Scores were calculated based on plans to retire coal-fired power plants, stop building new gas plants and build or purchase clean energy, all of which the report says are necessary steps to keep global warming under 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels — the temperature goal of the Paris Climate Agreement

The average score for the companies studied was 17 out of 100, which also translates to an F grade.

“Cleaning up the electricity sector is the key to economy-wide decarbonization, and electric utilities have a large role to play in making sure we are on the path toward a livable future,” the report reads. “Despite 33 of these companies having a public climate goal, there is an enormous gap between utilities’ current practices and what they need to do to protect people and the planet.”

In an email to WJCT News, JEA Media Relations Coordinator Simone Garvey-Ewan wrote: “JEA takes its impact on the environment very seriously and considers environmental impacts, customer impacts, costs, power quality and electric reliability when making any long-term commitments. JEA continues to diversify its electric generation portfolio with the addition of renewable energy resources, including solar, natural gas and biogas.”

While it’s true that natural gas produces far less carbon emissions than coal, it is still a significant source of greenhouse gases. In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted by natural gas-fired power plants, methane leaks are of serious concern, as has been reported by InsideClimate News.

Methane, a primary component of natural gas, leaks from drilling sites and pipelines and it is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Biogas, on the other hand, is considered carbon-neutral because while it does produce carbon dioxide, the carbon in it comes from plant matter that has absorbed (or sequestered) atmospheric carbon dioxide. That means replacing traditional fossil fuels like coal with biogas will help to lower carbon emissions, according to the University of Florida.

“JEA is engaged in environmental matters and continues to assess our long-term commitments, adapting to industry changes and meeting customer needs,” Garvey-Ewan went on to say. “By 2024, JEA will have reduced its carbon emissions by 60 percent with the closing of SJRPP [St. Johns River Power Park] and Plant Scherer, as well as the addition of Plant Vogtle and 250 MW of solar in JEA’s service area. JEA is issuing a Request for Proposals to develop an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that will be used to determine JEA’s long range energy supply.”

According to JEA’s website, its energy mix in 2019 was comprised of the following: 

  • Nuclear: 0% 
  • Coal: 16%
  • Natural Gas: 49%
  • Petroleum Coke: 9% 
  • Oil: 0% 
  • Renewables: 1%
  • Other: 25%

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.