Some Orange County residents could see their electric rates dip below Southern California Edison’s for the first time this month after the county’s green power agency approved new rates. 

However, the vast majority of the agency’s customers won’t see their rates dip below Edison’s costs.

The Orange County Power Authority – which includes the cities of Irvine, Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Buena Park – started in 2020 with the goal of providing an alternative to Edison, with early studies promising that rates could drop below their chief competitor quickly. 

But that didn’t materialize when the agency launched last year, with rates that either matched or exceeded the costs residents were only paying. 

This month, that’s set to change. 

The only rate that has slipped below Edison is the Basic Choice option, which provides a mix of 38% renewable energy for participating residents and was created to serve as a competitor to Edison’s standard rates. 

That rate now runs at around a 1% discount to Edison, which comes out to just over a dollar less on your monthly bill, according to examples presented by power authority staff. 

But most residents were automatically placed on more expensive tiers, which is still more expensive than Edison – despite the rate drop.

According to statistics from power authority staff, only 6,402 of over 200,000 customers signed up for the basic choice, making up about 3% of the agency’s customer base.

The rate drop was approved in December by the outgoing board of directors, nearly all of whom are not returning for the new year. 

“A 2% rate cut may not mean much in terms of dollars and cents … but it does signal the potential promises and benefits of the Orange County Power Authority,” said Fullerton Mayor and power authority board member Fred Jung at the board’s December meeting. 

The rate decrease has been repeatedly advertised by the agency as a 2% decrease, but that statistic doesn’t take into account the additional charges on the bill, like the fees of delivering electricity to someone’s home. 

The news of a rate drop comes after a tough few months for the controversial agency, which saw the county government pull out after a series of audits found problems with transparency and poorly prepared contracts.

[Read: Cloudy Contracts, Audits and Lost County Support: A Rough Year For OC’s Green Power Agency]

Most of the agency’s customers were opted in at the more expensive, but more renewable 69% and 100% renewable energy options, with customers having to manually switch themselves to the cheapest rates offered. 

Residents in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Buena Park were opted in at the 100% renewable energy tier in 2021, and residents in Fullerton were opted in at the 70% tier, a decision made by each city’s council members. 

Going forward, Huntington Beach leaders are looking at opting residents in at the basic choice tier, but the other cities still opt new residents in at higher rates. 

According to a graph presented by power authority staff, those rates run at a 2.3% and 3.9% premium to Edison’s basic rates, which offer less renewable energy.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada. 

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