San Clemente decided to jump onboard with a host of Orange County cities joining new renewable energy programs earlier this month, but chose to look beyond county limits for its partners.
The cities of Irvine, Buena Park, Huntington Beach and Fullerton banded together earlier this year to launch the Orange County Power Authority, the county’s first community choice energy program, with plans to begin supplying power as early as April 2022, with a full rollout later next year.
Since it first started earlier this year, the OC Power Authority has been caught in a variety of public stumbles, including a delayed banking contract, complaints about transparency and the resignation of Lake Forest, which hopped off the ride before the agency got on its feet.
“I have no interest in going north and dealing with that Irvine crap,” said Councilman Gene James from the council dais Tuesday night, who seconded the motion to pursue a program with the Clean Energy Alliance.
The council only directly mentioned the OC Power Authority once during their entire discussion.
Ultimately, the city council decided to pursue a partnership with Clean Energy Alliance, a community choice program in north San Diego County including the cities of Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Del Mar.
When asked about the council’s decision and James’ comments, Fullerton Councilman Fred Jung, who serves as vice chair for the Power Authority Board, said while he respected and endorsed their decision to join a community choice program, they should have talked more with the OC Power Authority about joining up.
“If their choice is the Clean Energy Alliance, I wish them the best, and I thank them for being a part of that and making that step,” Jung said in a Thursday phone call. “With regards to the commentary, Councilman James is going to have an opinion and he’s entitled to that. But I encourage them to speak with board members of the OC Power Authority next time…allow us the opportunity to have that conversation rather than doing a simple Google search.”
In a community choice energy program, cities directly purchase power for themselves and send it to homeowners, which lets homeowners decide what mix of renewable and nonrenewable energy they want to power their home along with new programs intended to stimulate the local energy business.
While the program can provide savings on customer’s power bills, many of the existing programs are currently charging more than traditional providers like Southern California Edison, which San Clemente’s consultant Mark Fulmer called a “relative blip.”
According to Fulmer’s presentation, the average savings come in at around 2% cheaper per year, with no savings in some years due to market conditions, new regulations or the old provider changing their offered rates.
Meanwhile, many public complaints about OC Power Authority have been aimed at agency CEO Brian Probolsky, a long-time political operative in Orange County who landed a $239,000 salary despite having no experience in the electricity industry or a college degree.
The Power Authority Board next meets Nov. 9.
The city of Laguna Beach is also set to decide on a provider for community choice energy in November after the city council asked for a review of all their options back in July.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.