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Climate and Environment

Irvine Founded OC's Green Power Agency. Now It Might Leave It

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The Red Cloud Wind Project in New Mexico will help power more than 200,000 homes in Los Angeles.
(Pattern Energy
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power)
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Irvine, the founding city of Orange County's green power authority, put off its planned discussion on whether to pull out of the agency. The Orange County Power Authority has faced an increasing barrage of accusations of corruption, mismanagement and a lack of transparency, which prompted city officials to consider an exit.

At a city council meeting Tuesday evening, Councilmember Kathleen Treseder asked for the discussion to be continued to the city’s next meeting since a fellow councilmember and former power authority board chair, Mike Carroll, had to leave the meeting early and wouldn’t be present for the discussion.

Treseder was an original booster of the clean energy agency but has since become a vocal critic of its management, and had indicated she would vote for Irvine to exit the agency.

What is the Orange County Power Authority?

The OCPA is a public agency that purchases power through a mechanism known as community choice aggregation on behalf of residents and businesses in Buena Park, Fullerton, Irvine and Huntington Beach. Proponents say the model allows for more local control over electricity sources and prices, and encourages the development of cleaner energy options.

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What are the problems?

There are a lot. Top concerns from the community and critics include:

  • Higher initial electricity rates than customers were paying with Southern California Edison. (Although, as of January, the least expensive product is now 2% lower than the comparable option from Southern California Edison.)
  • Faulty communication with customers, especially about how to opt out of OCPA.
  • A lack of experience among the agency’s staff with community choice aggregation and electricity markets, in general.
  • Minimal transparency in hiring and contracting.

OCPA spokesperson Joe Mosca said he hopes Irvine will decide to work with the agency to fix the problems that have been identified, including in recent audits, rather than withdraw. “I hope that the discussion [at Irvine’s upcoming city council meeting] is going to be about the fact that Orange County Power Authority is a very important strategy for them to reduce their greenhouse gases,” he said.

Would Irvine be the first city to pull out?

Yes, but the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which had planned to switch unincorporated areas of the county over to the OCPA later this year, voted 3-2 to pull out of the agency in December. They cited mismanagement and a lack of transparency.

Huntington Beach is also considering leaving the OCPA. That would leave the electricity buyer with just two cities, Fullerton and Buena Park.

Climate activists no longer support the OCPA

Treseder, who also sits on the OCPA board, helped launch the green power agency. She has been lobbying for community choice energy in Orange County since 2017.

In December, she cast a deciding vote on the city council for Irvine to remain with the OCPA in hopes that the new board, which includes herself, would bring in fresh management to address concerns.

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However, she told LAist on Feb. 10, after a special meeting of the OCPA, that she had lost confidence that changes would be made.

I can't, in good conscience, keep our residents in this program that I don't have any confidence in.
— Kathleen Treseder, Irvine city councilmember

"I can't, in good conscience, keep our residents in this program that I don't have any confidence in," Treseder said. "I'm so sad about it."

What's next?

The Irvine City Council will meet Feb. 28 and discuss pulling out of the agency. It's just the first step in what could be at least a months-long process to withdraw from the OCPA.

The OCPA meets Wednesday.

Have a question about Orange County?
Jill Replogle wants to know what you wished you knew more about in OC and what’s important to you that’s not getting enough attention.

Updated February 15, 2023 at 8:01 AM PST
This story was updated with details from an Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday.
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