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Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 7, 201903:27 PM EST

16 firms submit bids for JEA, including FPL parent NextEra Energy, Duke Energy

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The bidder identities will remain confidential until a final award is issued in late February, utility officials say.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

NextEra Energy Inc., Emera Energy Services Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. confirmed they are among the 16 organizations that submitted bids Monday to purchase JEA.

Juno Beach-based NextEra owns Florida Power & Light Co., whose CEO confirmed interest in the city utility in August. Emera is the parent company of Teco and Peoples Gas.

JEA opened responses at 2 p.m. to its invitation to negotiate. It announced the number of responses and not the names of the bidders. Those identities are confidential.

FPL Vice President and Chief Communications Officer David Reuter confirmed Monday afternoon that NextEra Energy replied to JEA’s invitation to negotiate. He declined to say if Florida Power & Light bid for all or a portion of JEA’s assets and said his company is “respecting the ITN process.”

Duke Energy spokeswoman Catherine Butler confirmed the energy company’s bid in an email Monday. 

“We responded to the invitation to negotiate with a comprehensive demonstration of our qualifications to participate in the process,” she wrote. “We are familiar with JEA and have worked with them for many years on power purchase agreements. This is just the first step in a lengthy, complex process – and we look forward to learning more.”

Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the largest electric power holding company in the U.S. and has 7.7 million customers in six states. It also has natural gas distribution services to more than 1.6 million customers in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Emera company spokesperson Jeff Myrick confirmed his company's bid in an email Monday.

JEA’s bid deadline was noon Monday. Utility Media Relations Manager Gina Kyle said in a public meeting notice that JEA officials would not take questions or give interviews about the procurement process. 

Only one bidder spoke with the media before the bid opening. Rob Nicholas, vice president of resource optimization at Veolia North America, told Daily Record news partner News4Jax.com that his company is interested in part of JEA’s assets and wants to partner with another bidder during the negotiating process.

Veolia Water Technologies is a division of Paris-based Veolia Environmental S.A., a global water and wastewater services provider with almost $1.9 billion in annual revenue, according to the company’s website.

On Monday, the utility’s procurement representatives opened 16 boxes, one by one, marking each with a reply number.

JEA will decide whether to accept offers to purchase all the utility assets or proposals to buy parts of the business, such as the water or electric.

JEA Managing Director and CEO Aaron Zahn said Sept. 24 that a cone of silence prohibits members of the JEA board, City Council, Mayor Lenny Curry and administration officials from speaking about specific negotiations during the process.

The cone of silence does not apply to companies that bid on the utility.

 Zahn said JEA negotiators will suggest partnerships between the bidders.

“What we’ve asked the partners to do is rather than create teams that would, ultimately, predefine how they respond, we’ll evaluate the responses based on the specific area of influence they are interested in and then try and match the highest and best partners with each other that drive the best value for our customers,” Zahn said. 

The public utility issued the invitation to bid Aug. 2, saying a sale could be the best option to solve projected declining energy sales and revenue. All bids will have to include minimum requirements of a $3 billion cash payment to the city, $400 million in customer rebates and a commitment to keeping employees in Downtown Jacksonville to be accepted.

The selected bidder will have to provide the city $132 million to extend pension protections for all full-time JEA workers employed at the time of the sale.  Council approved legislation requiring the stipulation Sept. 24.

According to the bid requirements, JEA officials also will not award bids that do not include:

• At least three years of contractually guaranteed base rate stability for customers.

• Commitment to develop and provide the city and the Duval County Public Schools 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

• Commitment to develop and provide 40 million gallons a day of alternative water capacity for Northeast Florida by 2035.

• Maintain comparable employee compensation and benefits for three years.

• Retention payments to all full-time employees of 100% current base compensation.

Although the bids are in, JEA’s negotiation team is not scheduled to disclose the companies that submitted them until it makes its final recommendation to the board in late February. 

JEA senior leadership says the team will meet Oct. 18 and post its intent to negotiate. That will begin a four-month negotiation process. If the JEA board votes to accept one or more of the bids, the offers will be sent to Council for consideration in March.

Council President Scott Wilson says he will address requests by Council members Randy DeFoor and Garrett Dennis to hire an attorney outside the Office of General Counsel to represent the council should the JEA board vote to privatize. Those council members say they seek legal expertise in the area of utility procurement that can focus on the sole issue of JEA’s sale.

“Originally, I was thinking we do this a little further down the road, but I think I’m ready to begin that engagement sooner rather than later,” Wilson said Sept. 30. 

Council member Michael Boylan will hold a public meeting with Wilson at 11 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the process of hiring outside counsel.

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