JEA’s proposed new headquarters, which would likely be unnecessary if privatization proceeds.

The points from JEA itself can be added to the various other compelling reasons not to privatize:

  • JEA is a major source of recurring city revenue. JEA pays an annual contribution into the city budget which is projected to be $118 million for 2020 and is guaranteed to grow for several years. Privatization would almost certainly make this disappear. Advocates tout a windfall of potentially $3 billion the city would get in the sale, which we could theoretically invest for a similar if not greater return. But generating that return requires trusting the financial acumen of a city government that nearly gave $36 million to some Lyle Lanley-esque hucksters who promised to turn the Berkman II skeleton into a “Dave & Busters on steroids.” We’re still waiting on the outcome of the mayor’s deal to trade the JEA vehicle fleet to a passing old man for a bag of magic beans. Barring an uncharacteristically good investment on the city’s part, the $3 billion is one-time money; at the current rate, the annual contribution would surpass that number in less than 30 years.
  • Private utilities are antagonistic to solar power. The Sunshine State lags behind our peers in solar energy, largely due to the machinations of the private utilities, who see solar as a threat to their bottom line. They have lobbied for restrictive laws that limit solar expansion; back in 2016, they pushed the notorious “solar amendment” that used the “language of promoting solar” to mislead voters into doing the opposite. Most of Florida’s utility companies backed the scheme while twirling their collective mustaches; public JEA was the major exception.
  • JEA is based in Jacksonville - its buyers are not. Advocates talk about privatization as if they could just wave a wand and magically transform JEA into a private corporation. The reality is that JEA would just be bought by another company - the likeliest include Florida Power and Light, Emera, and Duke Energy. FPL and Duke already have their own headquarters, in Juno Beach and Charlotte, respectively, while Canadian company Emera has operations in Tampa through TECO Energy. The buyer would presumably keep some presence in Jacksonville, but it’s unlikely they’d have a need for a substantial HQ building like the one JEA is currently planning on West Adams Street. More likely, they’d shutter the HQ as soon as possible and relocate positions to the HQ; we may well be saying goodbye to a major downtown infill project and likely hundreds of local jobs.

JEA’s website shows that it already knows what the majority of the city knows - that public ownership is the best situation for ratepayers. If the trials and tribulations that Zahn predicts ever do manifest, another solution will be the answer. Selling off the city’s most valuable asset will only cause more problems than it could ever hope to solve.

Article by J.D. McGregor. Contact J.D. at