Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JEA Cuts Monthly Fuel Charge; It'll Show Up in October ... but So Will Several Planned Utility Cost Increases

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JEA Cuts Monthly Fuel Charge; It'll Show Up in October ... but So Will Several Planned Utility Cost Increases

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

JEA is dropping its monthly fuel charge by 25 percent, although the relief won't seem that big for customers who've been hammered by power and water rate increases.

The reduction approved Tuesday will mix in with several planned increases in October, the start of JEA's fiscal year.

All said, the monthly bill for a typical Jacksonville home using 1,250 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 6,000 gallons of water will drop about $2, or 1 percent.

Tuesday's vote by the city-owned utility's board of directors lowers the monthly fuel rate, including a fuel-recovery charge, from $55.14 to $41.26. That price is applied to every 1,000 kilowatt-hours used.

But the savings are muted because the reduction is set for October, when JEA is boosting its electricity base rate by 6 percent as part of a plan launched two years ago to tackle debt.

A four-year stretch of water-sewer rate hikes will kick in that month, too, costing the average customer an additional 10.5 percent in the first cycle.

The fuel rate in question Tuesday channels customers' money toward the cost of the coal and natural gas used to produce electricity. It's designed to rise and fall based on the whim of the fuel markets, which escalated violently last year amid worldwide economic growth and speculation among oil traders that spilled over to other commodities.

As the global economy declined, some developing countries' growth slowed, loosening a choke hold on fuel and building supplies.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, natural gas prices are falling and some grades of coal are priced at less than half what they were this time last year.

"The bad news is the economy is depressed. The good news is commodity prices have come down and we think and hope they're going to stay down for a couple of years," JEA chief executive Jim Dickenson said.

Electricity demand has been below projections, too, enabling the utility to delay plans to build a natural gas-powered generating plant near the south end of Florida 9A. …

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