Julia, for our readers who may not realize there are many different careers in the energy industry, could you please describe your role in accounting and finance within the JEA utility system?
I have had the opportunity to be in various financial roles within municipal utilities, but the majority of my career has been in financial planning and analysis at JEA, which encompasses operating and capital budgets, long-term financial planning, and rates.
Your skillsets include expertise in regulatory accounting. Did you specifically study those nuances or learn through your current work in the utility industry?
I would not consider myself an expert in regulatory accounting and studied finance in school rather than accounting. However, I have had to become quite familiar with the intricacies of regulatory and governmental accounting as it is a vital ingredient in long-term financial planning and decision making for a utility. Understanding accounting implications is imperative as it directly ties to the financial plan and the rates we charge our customers.
In addition to your clear knowledge in finance, you have to be knowledgeable and aware of the national and economic challenges including how inflation and employee shortages might impact your organization. If I’m correct, are you seeing impact from these challenges on your customer rates? How might your circumstances differ from an investor-owned utility in that regard?
Inflation and shortages of many kinds (employee and supply chain) are taken into account when looking forward. All of these pressures impact customer rates. However, the goal for a municipal utility is service of the community and customers. As JEA is not-for-profit, rates are set to recover costs and maintain financial stability, with the ultimate goal to keep costs as low as possible while providing excellent and reliable service.
Your work reaches across JEA’s water and electric services. As a financial leader in both energy and water, are there real differences in the financial risk associated with each industry?
While each system has it’s own set of challenges when looking into the future, both are essential services that must be provided. The landscape for water and energy is changing, new regulations are being created, and technology is evolving. This creates some uncertainty and the need for a strong vision and strategy for serving both energy and water customers responsibly and affordably into the future.
In your time in these industries, are you seeing an increase in the hiring of women?
Yes, absolutely. Currently our finance department is over 50% women, which was certainly not the case when I entered the industry in the mid-2000’s.
In closing, what advice would you give to the 2d year college student looking for a career in energy?
There is not a field (in my opinion) you could choose that will have more impact on more people in the future than energy. It’s the best opportunity for a student to use their skills and interests in a way that truly can improve the future for everyone in their community.