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An appeals court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit alleging Jacksonville's public utility company violated state law when it amended a program that provides loans to customers who generate electricity from rooftop solar panels.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled that the Solar United Neighbors nonprofit group was not empowered to pursue the JEA's case. At the heart of the lawsuit were loans JEA grants to customers whose roof panels produce more energy than houses consume.
According to the judgment, from 2009 customers received credits for the end customer price of electricity. However, in 2018, JEA reduced loan amounts and tied them to the cost of buying fuel for power plants.
“In JEA's view, while customer-generated solar energy reduced utility costs by eliminating the need to buy fuel, it did not reduce JEA's capacity costs to run and maintain the power grid,” said Judge Rachel. wrote the Nordby judgment and joined Chief Judge Lori Rowe and Judge Thomas Winokur.
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Solar United Neighbors, which is working to organize electricity customers into solar cooperatives, argued that the change violates state law that deals with “net metering” programs where property owners generate electricity.
A Duval County district judge ruled in favor of the JEA. The appeals court upheld the ruling, saying Solar United Neighbors, based in Washington, DC, had canceled plans for a Jacksonville cooperative and could not prove any legal force.
“The cooperative never came about because SUN canceled it before it was due to start,” wrote Nordby. “And SUN could not with certainty identify a customer base that would have participated in the cooperative without the 2018 policy. At most, SUN has identified a few willing people. ”
According to the ruling, Solar United Neighbors receives fees from contractors selected to install solar panels for cooperative members.