JEA’s Greenwashing Works, Unfortunately

By J. Logan Cross

J. Logan Cross is the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida Executive Committee Chairman


In a time of rapid global warming, there is an urgent need for companies, industries, and governments to reduce carbon emissions. Many of these entities respond by touting their efforts to go “green” to impress environmentally-minded customers. Sometimes their claims are legitimate, but far too many are “greenwashing”. That is, their claims suggest they are environmentally friendly, while their everyday practices contribute to environmental degradation and/or global warming. For a local example of greenwashing, look no further than the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) our municipal utility.


For many years renewable energy sources comprised less than 1.5% of JEA’s energy generation portfolio, yet JEA distributed brochures portraying it as being on the cutting edge of the transition to renewable energy sources. To JEA’s credit, these brochures lessened in frequency and their claims less grandiose. JEA’s greenwashing restarted as it rolled out its electrical Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). If implemented as designed, the JEA IRP will translate to the addition of “clean” energy, yet the amount to be added is modest when compared to the additions by other utilities. JEA was at 1.5% renewable energy at the start of 2023, so an increase to 24% by 2030 seems ambitious and bold. This positive action masks the fact that the JEA IRP is designed to wed the utility to fossil fuel dependence for decades to come.


The JEA IRP assumes a new combined cycle natural gas plant (CCNG) plant will be built and many components of the plan are contingent on its addition. Given that the plant will likely cost over a billion dollars and have a lifespan of 30 years, adding the plant will lock the utility into fossil fuel dependence beyond 2050. Given the rapid advances in renewable energy technologies and the declining cost of adding renewable energy sources, it may eventually cost more to operate the CCNG plant than what JEA receives from selling its electricity. Thus, there is a good chance the CCNG plant will eventually become a financial yoke around JEA’s neck much like the nuclear energy purchase contracts with Plant Vogtle in Georgia.


Many utilities are decommissioning their coal-fired generating systems because they are expensive, inefficient, and highly polluting, yet JEA’s IRP assumes its coal-fired Northside Generating Station will operate indefinitely. This action is in defiance of looming EPA requirements requiring utilities to retrofit existing plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Does such defiance and inaction reflect a utility committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?


While other utilities are actively capitalizing on financial incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to transition to renewable energy sources, JEA is actively finding reasons it cannot do so. The JEA IRP includes steps to study and analyze the IRA offerings rather than capitalizing on them. This smacks of a utility preferring to stay in its comfort zone, burning fossil fuels for energy generation.


Residents in this region have been starved for signs JEA is modernizing its energy generation practices, so many were elated by the addition of renewable energy sources as part of the IRP. They interpreted this as a bold move by JEA and an indicator of great changes to come. If you are one of these people, I encourage you to take a closer look at the JEA IRP. You will find JEA is committed to rely on fossil fuel combustion for most of its electricity generation for a very long time. If JEA’s IRP is implemented as designed JEA will remain fossil fuel dependent beyond 2050. Since JEA is Jacksonville’s utility, the city will continue its fossil fuel dependence and remain a substantial contributor to global warming.


If you are among the city leaders and citizens who are pleased with JEA’s foray into clean energy, enjoy the warm feeling inside when you hear JEA touting its clean energy bone fides. You will be living proof greenwashing works. Conversely, if you among the residents who want JEA to do much more, convey your preferences to JEA’s Board Members and demand more of JEA leaders. This would allow our city to join other cities addressing climate change, a positive for the city and the environment.


  1. Logan Cross is a San Marco resident and concerned citizen. He is also chairman of the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida Executive Committee.

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