Nearly two years after its first board meeting, Orange County’s new green power agency is about to flip the switch for its first residential customers Oct. 1.
The Orange County Power Authority is the region’s first community choice energy program, which lets interested residents pay slightly higher rates for cleaner power to go on Orange County’s grid, with the goal of accelerating the state’s transition to 100% clean power by 2045 and providing a viable alternative to Southern California Edison.
But the agency has been dogged by transparency questions since its inception, a problem board members have described as “growing pains,” promising a bright future for all who stay onboard.
[Read: OC Power Authority Disputes Accusations of Secrecy, Completes $200 Million in Power Purchases]
It also comes as the agency faces three separate audits.
Who’s Part of the Power Authority?
Residents of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Fullerton and Buena Park are the only ones currently eligible for the new program, after each of their city councils voted to join in 2020.
Business owners and residents in all those cities will be automatically opted into the agency, which is required under state law.
City councilmembers in Irvine, Huntington Beach, and Buena Park decided to opt their residents in at the 100% renewable energy level, the most expensive and cleanest option, while Fullerton leaders settled on the 70% renewable option.
Residents can also choose a 38% renewable option, which is what Edison currently offers, or opt out of the program altogether and remain an Edison customer with the option to switch back to the power authority in the future.
People in unincorporated county territory are currently set to join the program at the end of 2023, and if any additional cities join before the end of this year their residents wouldn’t receive power until 2024 at the earliest.
Not every resident will join immediately on Oct. 1, with the agency releasing a rollout schedule based on when your current “true-up month,” is with Edison.
According to that schedule, all residential customers will be enrolled by August of next year at the latest, while all businesses will be enrolled by February 2023.
To review when your bill will shift to the OC Power Authority, click here.
Where Can I Learn More?
Residents in all four cities were set to begin receiving pamphlets notifying them about the shift to the power authority in August, but the notices provide few details as to what that actually means.
“Beginning in April 2022, OCPA becomes your local renewable energy provider. To make things convenient, your business will be automatically enrolled,” the notice sent out to businesses reads. “You’re all set-there’s no need to do anything.”
To review the flyer, click here.
[Read: OC Businesses and Public Agencies Left in the Dark As Power Authority Rolls Out]
But on the power authority’s website, interested customers can enter their address, current rate and service location to see a comparison of their current rates and what they’ll be switching to in October.
To use the agency’s rate comparison tool, click here.
The agency also has a question and answer hotline at (866) 262-7693, which is the same number to call if you’re interested in opting out over the phone.
The agency also accepts questions at email@example.com and is hosting public office hours at the Huntington Beach Central Library from 1-7 p.m. today. No further office hours have been announced, but they are published on the agency’s Instagram page.
Problems at the Power Authority
While the agency ended its fiscal year $1.6 million “in the black,” according to a staff presentation at their September meeting, there are a lot of outstanding questions around transparency and staff expertise at the power authority.
There are currently three audits of the agency underway across the city, county and state levels, all aimed at addressing concerns around a lack of financial transparency and answering questions of the agency’s long term viability.
[Read: OC State Legislators’ Concerns Trigger State Investigation of OC Power Authority]
Those investigations come after an Orange County Grand Jury investigation found that the agency had failed to inform the public of what they were doing and that the agency’s staff needed to improve – an allegation the agency’s board of directors disputes.
While the agency’s website has improved since its launch and offers more information to the public, there are still some big questions on financial specifics, which agency staff say are allowed to be kept partially in the dark under state law.
The OC Board of Supervisors are looking at potentially pulling out of the agency at the end of this year depending on the results of their audit.
[Read: County Demands Investigation of OC’s New Green Power Agency, Under Threat of Withdrawing]
The board has also publicly been debating firing their CEO Brian Probolsky for months, but have yet to announce any action one way or the other on whether he’ll continue his role at the power authority.
Probolsky had no experience in electricity before taking over as the agency’s founding CEO following multiple ethics investigations during his work for the county government.
Before the agency’s board of directors could discuss firing him, Probolsky filed a whistleblower complaint against them, alleging current and former board members were trying to force him out to implement their own illegal plans.
[Read: OC Green Power Agency Holds Off On Firing CEO and Legal Counsel, Citing Investigation]
The results of that investigation were set to be discussed behind closed doors at the agency’s last meeting, but were kicked to their October meeting.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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