Episode #138: JEA's Blueprint: Community Trust, Clean Energy, and the Road to 2030 with Jay Stowe, CEO of JEA [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast]

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The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ features conversations with thought leaders in the utility sector. At least twice monthly, we connect with an Energy Central Power Industry...

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Utilities are inherently organizations that require strong, stable, and forward-looking leadership. To balance the myriad of goals, the plethora of stakeholders, and the rapidly evolving landscape in which they operate, the CEOs in our power sector may not have the most enviable job, but they are undoubtedly critical. This importance holds especially true when a utility finds itself at risk of losing the trust of its customers and needing a leading voice to reassure and guide the company and its community. No doubt, JEA (Florida's largest community-owned utility) has faced its fair share of challenges in recent years, and a key reason the company finds itself on the upswing now is because of the leadership provided by its CEO, Jay Stowe.

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As the guest on this episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast, Jay shares his experience being brought into the CEO role at JEA to guide the ship through choppy waters. Through that experience, Jay can boast about the transformative steps taken to restore trust and align with the community's aspirations. As Florida races against time to meet its sustainability goals, Jay shares with podcast host Jason Price and producer Matt Chester how JEA's Integrated Resource Plan aims to balance affordability, sustainability, and reliability for over half a million customers. From dissecting JEA's forward-looking vision and the intricacies of achieving a 35% clean energy goal by 2030 to addressing the hurdles of scaling up solar in the Sunshine State, Jay's insights offer a unique perspective on modern utility leadership, the importance of community engagement, and the commitment to a greener future.

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Thanks to the sponsor of this episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast: West Monroe.  


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Jason Price: 

Welcome to the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast. The show that brings leading minds from the energy industry to discuss the challenges and trends that are transforming and modernizing our energy system. And a quick thank you to West Monroe, our sponsor of today's show. Now, let's talk energy.

I am Jason Price, Energy Central Podcast host and director with West Monroe, coming to you from New York City. And with me as always, from Orlando, Florida is Energy Central producer and community manager, Matt Chester.

Matt, we're being joined by one of the big names in the utility sector from your state of Florida. Some ways north of where you are is JEA, a community owned electric water and sewer utility. Matt, can you give us a bit of a background on the customers JEA serves?


Matt Chester: 

Yeah. Sure thing, Jason. JEA it's a community owned power provider for the Jacksonville metro area, making it the largest such community owned utility in the state of Florida. And they serve over half a million customers. Their power in addition to, you mentioned service hundreds of thousands for both water and sewer needs as well. And as a community owned utility, JEA operates as a not-for-profit. And that allows it to operate in some unique ways, compared with the major IOUs that otherwise make up much of the Florida utility industry.


Jason Price: 

Thanks, Matt. And after some challenges navigated quite publicly in recent years at JEA, our guest was named to be managing director and CEO to provide steady leadership and a clearer vision for the future.

We'll let him share more about what that transition was like, and how it was to traverse some hurdles right at the outset of his tenure at JEA. So with that, we want to welcome to the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast, Jay Stowe. The general manager and CEO of JEA.


Jay Stowe: 

Thank you, Jason, Matt. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. Talk to you a little bit about JEA, and what's going on with us. So thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to share some of our story.


Jason Price: 

Fantastic. And we're thrilled to have you on, Jay. I think it's always helpful to tackle the elephant in the room, so I hope you don't mind that we start with the pretense that you were hired under. Tell our listeners, what was going on and what you learned about leadership and the relationship between utilities and their customers from those early days?


Jay Stowe: 

Well first of all, let me say that JEA has been a leader in the industry and in the community for years and years and years. And you're right, there were few obstacles that we hit before I got here, where there was some effort to sell the system. And it turned into a transition of sorts, as the former leadership team was moved out and there was an interim leadership team brought in. And then I got here in November of 2020.

And that failed attempt at JEA really was the main focus... The failed attempt to sell JEA was really the main focus there for a little while. And my first priority when I got here was to rebuild trust. We had to rebuild the trust of our 2000 employees, and then with the community. Because there was a lot of anger and frustration, a lot of public backlash. But the good news is that the 2000 employees I'm talking about kept on doing their jobs every day, focused on protecting public health and public safety so that we could support economic development in Northeast Florida. So what I had to do when I got here was to get to know what they were doing really well, build a leadership team so that we could keep on working every day to maintain and keep the trust of our customers and the entire community.


Jason Price: 

No doubt, it was quite an endeavor to overcome. What did you learn about yourself during these challenging times? Any surprises?


Jay Stowe: 

Well, I don't know about surprises. What I knew is that I couldn't ignore the past, but that we also couldn't stand still with what was going on. So I had to continually remind the community everywhere I went to talk, every employee group, every community group, almost every person that I talked to each time I spoke, I had to start with saying the JEA was not for sale.

It is a message that I've repeated over and over and over again internally and externally to everyone. And we've made that transition now. It is not something I start with, other than on an event like this when I'm talking to you all to share some of our history. And so we had to be focused on getting the right leadership team in place, get the right people in the right seats to lead JEA. And together we've worked hard to restore the trust of employees, the community and really the larger industry. Some of the other folks that you talked to sometimes also needed to understand that JEA was still strong, in a good financial position. And ready to be a leader like we have been for years and years.


Jason Price: 

Yeah. No doubt. And you've come a long way, no doubt. Talk to us about the forward-looking vision with the recent publication of your IRP. Your integrated resource plan.

Can you give us say, the cliff notes of what the IRP is calling for?


Jay Stowe: 

Yeah. We can. It's part of our overall strategic direction. And we talk about being focused on improving lives and building community, and really focused on strategic focus areas and objectives. One of those is to plan for the future. And so we've developed this electric integrated resource plan, the IRP. And we had to keep in mind that everything we're doing is to assure the delivery of reliable, affordable, sustainable power to our customers for decades and decades to come.

In less than a decade between now and 2030, we plan to have, our energy supply portfolio will look like 35% clean energy. We'll retire less efficient generating assets. We'll lead the way by using 100% clean energy to fuel JEA facilities. We'll also plan to increase and even enhance energy efficiency, and demand side management programs to offset the load that would come due to electrification that we expect to come in the next seven years.

So working together, by 2030 this will result in an 80% reduction in JEA's overall carbon emissions. And so that's what we're focused on. We think they're very aggressive goals for 2030. Some people have wanted us to move with more goals out into the 2040 and '50. And I know a lot of utilities across the country have done that. We just don't believe that the technology and the timing is right for us to nail down those long-term goals. But we will redo an electric IRP in three years to stay up to date on new industry trends and the technology that's changing every day.


Jason Price: 

As you said, the energy center community are people from the utility industry. The energy and utility industry. But many of them may not fully appreciate the IRP process. Could you take a moment, walk us through, what are the inputs that you brought in to evaluate what was achievable, but also aggressive enough to do what's right by your customers with the IRP?


Jay Stowe: 

Yeah. So in JEA's past, we've done some IRPs in the past. And they have in large part been engineering exercises. And this still is an important long-term planning tool. But this past year, what we did was to bring customers and stakeholders into the discussion. And so while the consultants were gathering all of the critical information and looking at all kinds of scenarios and sensitivities, like other listeners that you have, we'll do the same thing.

We also took aggressive approach with stakeholder engagement, getting people to participate in those meetings to have open, transparent dialogue really to understand the competing priorities that our customers have. Because we serve everybody in the Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida region.


Jason Price: 

I'm amazed that you were able to do that, given the backdrop of the trust you had to overcome to win back the customer. So can you talk a little about what kind of feedback you got? What was the experience like with a community that's had some challenges when you stepped in? And what it's like today? What was that process like?


Jay Stowe: 

Well, it's part of the reason that I think it was really important that we start with the stakeholder group, is to be sure that they knew that everything was open. And so we put together this cross section of people from 22 different organizations. Some local non-profits, to some of our largest industrial customers, to environmental groups. And we've put together a series of meetings. We allowed for questions, we shared information. We got a lot of different input relative to environmental needs and all sorts of historical considerations, to be sure that we got as much information as we could to help us with the decision-making process.

Now that stakeholder input helped us to better see the future scenarios, and help us really nail down what the economic, engineering, environmental assumptions needed to be. And so we put those meetings together, and we scheduled them to be timed well to be able to pull the IRP development milestones together, so that the feedback could help us be sure we're making good decisions.

And then finally we invited a larger group, the entire community really, and held a public forum last May as this was wrapping up. And including some panel discussions from some of our IRP stakeholder group. And I was on the panel. A local media outlet facilitated just an open Q and A session. And it was a well-attended event, and we put it online for remote viewers to see. And we're going to keep on having those relationships and discussions with our stakeholders, not only on the electric side of our business, but on the water side of the business and new business lines that we might look at as well.


Jason Price: 

Yeah. And thumbing through the IRP, you set a goal of 35% clean energy by 2030. And granted this is updated every three years, but how confident are you that JEA will be able to meet these clean energy goals? And can you talk about or break down some of the technologies and programs you see needing to come to reality to help you hit those goals?


Jay Stowe: 

Well for that specific portion of the goals, we have already started making some improvement. We didn't wait for the goals to be completely approved, because we knew that we were going to need more renewable. And so we've started, and have a deal that provides us access to 150 megawatts of solar power that FPL provides to us. That started in April. We have another project that will start in a couple of years that we've already signed on with the Florida Municipal Power Group, that is helping us get closer on the renewable side.

And then we're part of and have a power agreement with some of the power from Plant Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia. Unit three just came online July 31st. And by the spring of 2024, we expect unit four to come online. And that'll be 11% of our power. So between now and 2030, we will keep on adding some more renewable, more solar to our mix to get to the full 35%. But part of that 35% is Plant Vogtle, because that is carbon free emissions coming from Plant Vogtle.


Jason Price: 

That's interesting. I wasn't aware that the reach was all the way down there. That's great. I wanted to talk to you about the solar side of things. So Florida, the sunshine state, you do have an active and growing solar community down there. Can you talk to us about delivering solar to the community? What are some of the challenges?

I mean you have land use issues, citing issues, supply chain issues. And of course, intermittency. So the sunshine state doesn't have as big as perhaps a robust solar community as one would think. How are you navigating through that, and appeasing the solar community down there?


Jay Stowe: 

You summarized the problems and concerns we have really well with that question. And so we're looking at being sure that we have a diverse energy mix, and that we're focused on resiliency through the IRP process and our planning process. And it needs to be diverse. So we are looking at replacing one of our natural gas units with a more efficient combined cycle natural gas plant that will help support the solar that we are putting in place, because it is... Well, we call it the sunshine state. It does also the afternoon thunderstorm state. And we need to be prepared to be able to be reliable, resilient, and affordable.

And so our plan is to put in some natural gas that's more efficient to help support the ongoing needs of our integrated resource plan.


Jason Price: 

I'd like to ask you a little bit about affordability and reliability, especially... With the mix of the two. Every state has its communities that struggle with the energy burden. How are you managing through that? What can you share with the audience? And how are you balancing the goals of affordability, sustainability and reliability, where the tools to achieve them may be pointing in a different direction?


Jay Stowe: 

Well, we always have to balance all of those things. How can we be reliable, resilient, affordable, sustainable? Some of these are pulling us in different directions. But as a community owned utility, we have to keep all of our customers in mind when we're making these decisions. And so through the IRP process, one of the key points that we remind our stakeholders of is that we were operating to choose the least cost option for our customers. Because their utility bill for many of them, may be the second-highest bill that they pay each month.

We work hard to manage our costs. And we've started tracking the full utility cost of some of the other areas of Florida. And whenever you put the water and the wastewater and the electric on, it's what our bill covers. When compared to other metropolitan areas like Gainesville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, we have the lowest bill for an average customer when compared to those other metro areas.

And so that may not always be the case, because there's a competing interest across all of these markets. But we're pleased to be able to manage our cost as efficiently as we can, and as best we can. And then we work with customers who do need help with other non-profit agencies in the community to help support them. We have weatherization programs, and energy efficiency programs. And so the balance of focusing on economic development and helping those that need it the most is what our 2000 employees do every day.


Jason Price: 

Yeah. Well said. No doubt, these are challenges that are nationally and probably globally, people balancing these kinds of questions. And people in your shoes are asked every day to solve them, or figure out ways and paths forward to solve them.

Nicely stated, and appreciate your thoughts and insight here. Jay, at this point, we now want to pivot to what we call our lightning round, which just gives us an opportunity to learn more about you the person, rather than you the professional.

We have five questions that we ask, and your response should be limited to a one word phrase or a statement. Are you ready?


Jay Stowe: 

Well, I didn't know about the one word phrase. I'm a little nervous about this part, but I think I can do it. So let's try it.


Jason Price: 

Okay. In all fairness, everyone takes liberties in interpreting what one word or phrase means. So feel free to answer as you desire.

Okay. What's your favorite holiday or time of year?


Jay Stowe: 

Fall. Still nice outside, but allergies are better.


Jason Price: 

Do you have a comfort movie, TV show or book that you can revisit time and again?


Jay Stowe: 

Oh. I can't pass up Pretty Woman, or American president. Tin Cup, Harry Potter, Oceans 11, Groundhog Day. Those types of movies are the ones that get me every time.


Jason Price: 

That's a nice selection. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party living or dead, real or fictional?


Jay Stowe: 

Maybe not as fun as you had hoped, but my grandparents passed away when I was young, or before I was born. And I would love to be able to meet them as an adult.


Jason Price: 

If you didn't end up working in the energy industry, where do you think your career would've taken you?


Jay Stowe: 

I'm going to take liberties here. I never even considered another thing, because my father and my grandfather ran utility systems in North Carolina. It's all I ever knew. There was a time when I thought I wanted to be an orthodontist, but I don't like shots. So I think this is all I was meant to do.


Jason Price: 

Who in your household tends to leave the lights on the most?


Jay Stowe: 

It's strange, but we leave the lights on for our 15-year-old miniature Dachshund. So I'm going to blame her.


Jason Price: 

Okay. Well done. I like that. Well done. And thanks for indulging us in the lightning round. And we'd like to give you the final word of the episode. So what do you hope to be the lasting, resounding message that our listeners will take away from today's discussion?


Jay Stowe: 

That JEA is strong, in a good position. Is working hard every day to improve lives and build community in Northeast Florida. And I appreciate you giving us the opportunity to talk a little bit about it.


Jason Price: 

Well, we appreciate it. And we want to thank you for being our guest on Power Perspectives Podcast today. And hopefully the conversation that we kicked off will continue in the comments section underneath the postings of this episode on And I'm sure you'll be able to follow up on answers to questions that may come in from our listeners. So until then though, we just want to thank you for joining us today, Jay.


Jay Stowe: 

Thank you very much for having me.


Jason Price: 

We also want to give a shout-out of thanks to the podcast sponsors that made today's episode possible. Thanks to West Monroe. West Monroe works with the nation's largest electric gas and water utilities in their telecommunication, grid modernization, and digital and workforce transformation. West Monroe brings a multidisciplinary team that blends customer experience, operational efficiency, regulatory and IT and digital expertise to address modernizing aging infrastructure, advisory on transportation, electrification. ADMS deployments, data and analytics, and cybersecurity. And once again, I'm your host, Jason Price. Plug in and stay fully charged in the discussion by hopping into the community at And we'll see you next time at the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast.


About Energy Central Podcasts

The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ features conversations with thought leaders in the utility sector. At least twice monthly, we connect with an Energy Central Power Industry Network community member to discuss compelling topics that impact professionals who work in the power industry. Some podcasts may be a continuation of thought-provoking posts or discussions started in the community or with an industry leader that is interested in sharing their expertise and doing a deeper dive into hot topics or issues relevant to the industry.

The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ is the premiere podcast series from Energy Central, a Power Industry Network of Communities built specifically for professionals in the electric power industry and a place where professionals can share, learn, and connect in a collaborative environment. Supported by leading industry organizations, our mission is to help global power industry professionals work better. Since 1995, we’ve been a trusted news and information source for professionals working in the power industry, and today our managed communities are a place for lively discussions, debates, and analysis to take place. If you’re not yet a member, visit to register for free and join over 200,000 of your peers working in the power industry.

The Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast is hosted by Jason PriceCommunity Ambassador of Energy Central. Jason is a Business Development Executive at West Monroe, working in the East Coast Energy and Utilities Group. Jason is joined in the podcast booth by the producer of the podcast, Matt Chester, who is also the Community Manager of Energy Central and energy analyst/independent consultant in energy policy, markets, and technology.  

If you want to be a guest on a future episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast, let us know! We’ll be pulling guests from our community members who submit engaging content that gets our community talking, and perhaps that next guest will be you! Likewise, if you see an article submitted by a fellow Energy Central community member that you’d like to see broken down in more detail in a conversation, feel free to send us a note to nominate them.  For more information, contact us at Podcast interviews are free for Expert Members and professionals who work for a utility.  We have package offers available for solution providers and vendors. 

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