Misinformation Surrounds Orange County Power Authority

August 24, 2022 Updated: August 24, 2022

Commentary

The County of Orange considered withdrawing from Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) on Tuesday morning, then voted for its own audit before exiting. The session revealed that county supervisors are not telling the public what is what.

OCPA competes with Southern California Edison (Edison) in the purchase of energy. That power continues to be delivered by Edison over its wires.

While the City of Irvine is conducting an audit of OCPA’s pre start-up costs, the county wants to review agency operations and contracts, including the review of (un-redacted) Power Purchase Agreements. Up to this time, OCPA has declined providing full power contracts to the public. The county is sending a letter to OCPA with its demands, giving OCPA “within 3 days of its September 6 board meeting” to comply.

Supervisor Don Wagner, who represents the County of Orange on OCPA’s board, said the agency’s recent $2 million fine, levied by the California Public Utilities Commission, was an elective event by OCPA, because energy volumes, mandated by the utilities commission for what is known as “year ahead resource adequacy,” are needlessly inflated by Sacramento.

Year ahead resource adequacy is procured for next year. Wagner, who did not address who ultimately pays OCPA’s $2 million fine, does not appear to understand the regulatory safeguards instituted to bolster the annually escalating use of renewable energy—its lack of reliance—which poses a constant black-out threat to our power grid.

Supervisor Katrina Foley asked why Irvine got to use an opt-in enrollment, where consumers are not automatically enrolled and proactively enroll themselves. All community choice energy programs use opt-out enrollments, including Irvine, per the establishing law, Assembly Bill 117.

Foley said that the county was in an odd position, because no other municipal jurisdiction in California has ever withdrawn from a community choice energy program.

This fails to address the cities of Baldwin Park, Montebello, or Santa Paula, who all decertified their community choice programs last year—in addition to the County of Butte that decertified its program in 2020.

Furthermore, the towns and cities of Dixon, Murietta, Menifee, Palos Verdes Estates, and Rancho Palos Verdes, all declined to join a community choice energy program when economic times were far more certain than today.

Western Community Energy, formerly located in Riverside County, declared bankruptcy after falling victim to the electric industry’s razor thin profit margins.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee questioned OCPA representative Steven Halligan, wanting to know who gets what green power if he is enrolled in OCPA and his neighbor is not. They both draw electricity from the same power grid. Halligan did not fully address Chaffee’s question.

Halligan identified OCPA’s opt-out enrollment program, noting consumers could use the agency’s online program or could call the opt-out telephone number (866) 262-7693. He did not address how the Orange County community is inappropriately enrolled in an opt-out program that OCPA controls.

The County of Orange will likely get an audit that reads “generally within industry norms … conforms with other CCA programs at start-up … OCPA is in the midst of assembling new leadership that should bolster operations,” and other homogenized observations.

None of this will address the underlying objections to the OCPA program—non-existent price savings, a skewed opt-out enrollment tool, green energy that is propped up by gas-fired generation, hundreds of millions of dollars of energy contract liability to which OCPA proponents now try to cuff the county, anemic reinvestment of ratepayers’ money in the local area (pdf) while the community’s money is exported to east coast power sellers and European oil giant, Shell (pdf).

All of this transpires while Southern California Edison delivers California’s escalating mandated annual clean energy volumes.

Consultants, staff personnel, and CalCCA (the trade organization behind OCPA) will now ramp up efforts to keep the county from departing OCPA.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Jim Phelps
Jim Phelps spent 35 years in the power industry as an engineering contractor and utility rate analyst. He served nearly four years supporting and implementing California’s new standardized energy reporting law, AB 1110, at the California Energy Commission. He has written extensively about Community Choice Energy for the past twelve years.