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Climate and Environment

Irvine Chooses To Stick With Troubled Clean Energy Provider... For Now

A view of Irvine California from a high elevation. At the forefront of the photo, a green ridge speckled with trees sits in front of several dozen houses with red and brown roofs. At the center of the photo, a green valley with some white-topped structures are spread across the landscape. Behind the valley is a front of white clouds. Peeking out from the top of the white clouds are mountain peaks and a light blue sky.
Irvine, California
(David McNew
/
Getty Images North America)
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In a 3-2 vote, Irvine city council voted to stick with a troubled clean energy provider — the Orange County Power Authority — that’s faced a grand jury investigation and audits over transparency issues and unqualified senior staff.

Mayor Farrah Khan said the burden on taxpayers of ending the contract would be bigger than reforming the agency.

Why It Matters

The O.C. Power Authority provides 100% renewable energy by default unless customers opt out. It's what’s called a community choice energy provider — there are 25 (and more in the works) across the state serving 11 million people.

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The non-profit model has helped hundreds of cities and counties get hooked on more renewable energy, and unhooked from for-profit, investor-owned utilities such as Southern California Edison.

The Backstory

In 2020, Irvine loaned the O.C. Power Authority $8 million tax dollars to get the agency going and allow Huntington Beach, Buena Park and Fullerton to join without up-front costs. But the agency has faced a grand jury investigation over transparency issues and unqualified senior staff.

That's why last week, Orange County supervisors voted to end their contract.

What's Next

Irvine will reconsider it's decision to stick with the agency in June. It could cost $145 million to pull out, according to city staff. Huntington Beach and Buena Park will also need to decide if they'll stick with it.

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