Orange County residents looking to jump on the county’s new municipal electric utility now know exactly what they’re getting offered after the agency’s board of directors approved their rate plans. 

But the question of cost still hasn’t been answered. 

The Orange County Power Authority was formed almost a year ago by the cities of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Fullerton and Buena Park to bring the first community choice energy program to county residents. 

Similar community choice energy programs have been launched statewide, and give residents a choice to buy more renewable energy than is currently offered by Southern California Edison. 

Now, any of the power authority’s customers will have the option to choose between three tiers when they purchase their power, letting them set what percentage of their power they want from renewable energy sources. 

When the agency turns the lights on next year, the low, middle and high tiers offer 38.2%, 69.1% and 100% renewable energy, respectively.

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While the board discussed what they would be selling at length, it’s still an open question on how much those options will actually cost. 

Ayn Craciun, a policy advocate for the Climate Action Campaign, pointed out during public comment how the agency hasn’t disclosed any pricing information to the public. 

But at a Tustin City Council meeting on Nov. 16, agency CEO Brian Probolsky told that council the prices would be “competitive, very close, maybe a little bit less,” and in a statement to Spectrum News last month, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan estimated the savings would be “anywhere between 2-4%.” 

“We were disappointed by the amount of information provided on rates in the staff report,” Craciun said. “The information we need is what rates will be relative to Edison’s rates.” 

Official rates will be established by board members in January, which is when member cities will also be starting the conversation on what rate will be the default for their community. 

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The decision could also trigger a review of the agency’s joint powers agreement, the chief document that establishes the rules for the board, what they’re allowed to offer and the operations within the agency. 

There were multiple points during the meeting where board members raised questions about how the agreement restricted their power, with Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan asking for a future discussion to fix the problems. 

Under the agreement, the agency is required to provide an option that meets only the bare minimum requirements for renewable energy under state law — a departure from many other similar programs that start their renewable sales at a higher level for all their customers. 

“That is exactly why we need to update our (agreement), this is something I’ve asked for multiple times,” Khan said during the meeting. “I cannot support us having a default at 35%.” 

There was also some confusion over whether or not the board would set the minimums for cities or if the individual cities would set their own default power options. 

The agency’s legal counsel Ryan Baron clarified the power authority’s bylaws require them to offer a power service that sits precisely on the state minimums, even if they’re using less renewable energy than what Southern California Edison offers. 

While no discussions of what default rates for individual cities will be have yet been scheduled, Khan called on her colleagues to push for those discussions by the end of the year.  

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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