Orange County’s new electric utility could be facing yet another challenge — this time with the chief state agency in charge of overseeing them this week after they announced they were in “existing litigation,” with regulators.
On their agenda published late last week, the Power Authority announced they’d be having a discussion behind closed doors with their legal counsel discussing a “Resource Adequacy Proceeding,” from the California Public Utilities Commission, the chief state regulator for community choice energy programs.
California Public Utilities Commission staff did not respond to questions asking why the Orange County Power Authority was involved in the resource adequacy review.
OC Power Authority board members Mike Posey and Fred Jung declined to comment, with Posey saying he had yet to review the agenda and Jung said he wouldn’t comment on a closed session item ahead of the meeting.
Mike Carroll, chair of the board, was unavailable for comment Monday as he was on a flight and declined to comment on Tuesday morning, citing the item’s status under closed session.
Brian Probolsky, the agency’s CEO, did not return requests for comment.
The Orange County Power Authority started late last year as the county’s first community choice energy program, a utility that allows an option other than Edison for people to buy electricity from.
The freshly minted OC Power Authority has already run into hurdles while trying to get off the ground.
While the agency is set to start supplying power as early as April 2022, a delayed banking contract meant the agency couldn’t start buying electricity until halfway through September of this year, three months later than originally planned and only a month and a half before the October deadline for having the plan submitted.
The public also still has no information on whether or not the agency will offer competitive or lower rates than Southern California Edison with less than five months until launch.
Most recently, San Clemente City Council members rejected the OC Power Authority and decided to go with a San Diego-area alternative power supplier.
The agency’s top staff have also repeatedly come under fire for a lack of transparency, with public commenters asking how Probolsky, who has no experience running an electrical utility, got the top job with a $239,000 paycheck.
There were also a lot of questions surrounding the agency’s conflict of interest code, which took months to finalize in what’s ordinarily a routine process amid concerns contractors wouldn’t have to file disclosure paperwork.
Depending on how the utility chooses to purchase its power, it can offer more renewable energy to customers and potentially lower their electricity bill.
Under California law, electric utilities are required to have enough power to continue running at peak hours and have operating reserves for their customers.
Those limits are set by the commission, and according to a 2019 report on the commission’s website any electrical utilities in the state are required to file plans with the state by October showing they’ve procured anywhere from 90 to 100% of their required power in advance.
The Power Authority meets at 10 a.m. today, and hosts its regular meetings the second Tuesday of each month.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
This article was updated Tuesday morning to reflect Mike Carroll’s inability to comment on Monday due to travel arrangements.
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