The Orange County Power Authority is now running two months late on getting needed funding to start providing electricity to residents, according to their own schedule.
But despite the delay, no official has publicly mentioned the issue in months.
According to the agency’s schedule, they were supposed to have selected a banking partner in March and finalized a contract by the end of May, but the public has yet to see anything resembling a final contract.
Right now, the agency is running on a slim startup budget from the city of Irvine, but needs millions more to actually launch. In order to buy power, the agency has to set up a line of credit before they launch services, allowing them to stockpile electricity for what could be over 300,000 customers at launch, and there’s no word on when that money is coming.
This isn’t the agency’s first hiccup in its early months.
Advocates have repeatedly raised concerns about transparency and the agency’s upper management, specifically targeting CEO Brian Probolsky’s lack of experience in the electricity sector.
Probolsky originally asked for the power to negotiate a credit contract with JP Morgan in June, handing over $50 million in taxpayer money to staff without the board’s review.
A completed contract was never shown, with a two page staff report stating negotiations should take two to four weeks.
The board ordered Probolsky to bring the completed contract for their review, following complaints from residents about a lack of transparency.
“I’m not the financial expert…and I would like to get in plain English the terms, the details, the covenants, all of it that will be related to those agreements,” said board member Susan Sonne at the June meeting. “That’s what I need to understand this better.”
When asked about the funds, Fullerton councilman and board member Fred Jung said he was unconcerned about the delay, and that he still strongly believes in the agency’s ability to succeed.
“You set goals that are hopefully attainable and you’re just not going to hit them all out of the park,” Jung said in a Wednesday phone interview. “I know there are some concerns that are reiterated over and over again. Those concerns will be addressed or have been, and we’ll continue to craft this thing in real time to make sure we accomplish the one thing that’s the most important-sustain and keep public trust.”
Jung also said one of the board members was personally involved in the negotiations with JP Morgan, but declined to state which one.
Board members Farrah Khan, Mike Carroll, Mike Posey and Susan Sonne did not return requests for comment on this story. Probolsky also did not return multiple requests for comment.
A board discussion on the contract was left off the board’s Aug. 10 agenda, meaning the earliest it could come back is Sept. 7 unless a special meeting is called.
Despite the delays in funding, the agency’s launch date has not been pushed back.
Businesses and government agencies will get access in April next year, with the residential rollout scheduled for October 2022.
The power authority is a public utility that will allow an option other than Edison for people to buy electricity from. Depending on how the utility chooses to purchase its power, it can offer more renewable energy to customers and potentially lower their electricity bill.
Residents in cities who sign up will get automatically enlisted in the program unless they opt out.
Currently, the cities of Irvine, Buena Park, Fullerton and Huntington Beach have signed up for the agency, while other cities throughout the county are studying the issue and deciding whether or not to sign up.
The agency’s next meeting is set for September 7, with plans for four more meetings this year according to the power authority’s calendar.
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