Just four months away from launch, the Orange County Power Authority board of directors are slated to consider how roughly 700,000 county residents will get their electricity — marking one of their biggest decisions to date.

Agency directors are slated to consider two power plans — the state’s minimum requirements — at their Nov. 23 meeting.

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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. 

Last week, the county board of supervisors decided to join as well in a 3-0 vote, with Supervisors Katrina Foley and Lisa Bartlett both abstaining.

Community choice energy allows residents a choice to buy more renewable energy than is currently offered by Southern California Edison, and it allows local control of how energy is purchased. 

Until recently, details on what the agency would actually offer have been scarce, but at their last meeting the agency’s board of directors began discussing what options would be available for consumers. 

Under state law, the power authority is required to provide options that meet at least the state minimum percentages for renewable energy, but any plans beyond that are up to local lawmakers. 

The state’s minimum requirements for renewable energy will be at 52% by 2027, and starting next year will sit at 38.5%.

While the board has agreed on offering an option for the state minimum and a 100% renewable energy bundle, the main debate is circling around whether or not to offer a 50% renewable option. 

In the staff report at the board’s last meeting on Nov. 5, agency CEO Brian Probolsky and the agency’s contractor — Pacific Energy Advisors — wrote that the 50% option would be “redundant,” and offering three tiers would be “more complicated and more expensive.” 

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The majority of public commenters at the board’s last meeting asked for the 50% option to be kept in, pointing out that it could persuade some residents who are on the fence to jump in. 

“Perhaps go with 80% if you think 50% is irrelevant, or maybe minimum plus 10, so as the minimum increases so can this middle option,” said resident Shannon Zemer. “You can market it as the green choice, where it costs about the same or just a little more, but makes a big difference.” 

Board member Mike Posey agreed with Zemer, saying a middle tier could give a “competitive option while still being mindful of greenhouse gas emissions.” 

After board members decide what they’re going to offer up, each city council that’s a part of the agency will have to vote on what the baseline offered to consumers will be. 

However, residents and businesses of those cities could still choose one of the lower available rates, or opt out altogether and remain with Southern California Edison. 

The final decision on rates will be made in January according to the staff report, giving businesses and municipalities who jump on at the April start date roughly three months to decide whether or not to switch. 

The board is also set to discuss setting up two “ad hoc,” committees on finance and branding, which would allow two board members to meet separately behind closed doors before bringing plans to the full board at a later date. 

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


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