Huntington Beach could be the next municipality to leave the controversial OC Power Authority on Tuesday night, leaving the fledgling electric utility in a tough spot.
The Orange County Power Authority has been under fire for much of the past year after a series of audits from a county grand jury, the county government itself and the state auditor’s office found the agency showed a repeated lack of transparency and had questionable oversight of its contracts.
[Read: State Auditor Lambasts OC’s Green Energy Agency Over Transparency and Contracting]
Since the last of those audits released in February, agency leaders have pledged a new day at the power authority, adopting a redemption plan to offer more transparency and public access, and fired CEO Brian Probolsky.
[Read: Orange County Power Authority Fires Controversial CEO After Two Years of Unrest]
Despite those promises of a major turnaround, on Monday evening Huntington Beach leaders announced a special meeting set for Tuesday night to discuss pulling out of the agency.
That means Surf City could be the second member to bail out of the agency after county officials withdrew last year – taking customers along.
The item had no staff report or details attached beyond the discussion topic, and came just in time to beat the 24 hour notice city leaders have to give residents for special meetings.
City leaders have been looking at pulling out ever since a new Republican majority came onto the dais in the Nov. 2022 election.
Both Mayor Tony Strickland and Councilman Pat Burns campaigned on getting the city out of the power authority, and Councilman Casey McKeon called the agency a “burning dumpster fire,” in one of his first meetings on the city council.
Since then, city staff have been meeting with the agency’s staff to figure out what withdrawing could look like.
McKeon and Strickland, who both serve as the city’s representatives on the agency’s board of directors, did not return requests for comment on Monday evening.
Fullerton Mayor and agency chair Fred Jung urged city leaders to table the discussion, pointing out that the Power Authority’s cheapest rates give Huntington Beach residents a discount compared to Edison.
“We’re realizing those savings right now and we’ve only serviced residential for the last six months,” Jung said in an interview Monday night. “I hope that folks understand that change is coming in real time and that it’s being accelerated.”
Most of the power authority’s customers were opted in at the 100% renewable rate, which while offering the largest investment in clean power is also the most expensive option.
Huntington Beach leaders dropped the default rate for new residents down to the 38% renewable option, the cheapest choice, but residents have to make that change themselves.
Jung also said Huntington Beach’s decision to discuss bailing out came as a shock, and said the financial impact to both the agency and the City of Huntington Beach remained unclear.
“It’s the second largest agency of the four member agencies, so I would be lying if I said there wasn’t an impact,” Jung said. “There will be an impact. What that impact looks like is to be determined at this point.”
The agency provides power to the cities of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Fullerton and Buena Park, with the goal of providing a competitor to Southern California Edison with more renewable energy.
Last year, after the series of scathing audits were released, Orange County Supervisors voted to withdraw OC’s unincorporated areas.
[Read: Cloudy Contracts, Audits and Lost County Support: A Rough Year For OC’s Green Power Agency]
Huntington Beach’s discussion also comes as Fullerton leaders are set to discuss whether they want to study leaving the agency at their Tuesday night meeting as well after discussing the issue last month.
[Read: Will Fullerton Bail Out of OC’s Beleaguered Green Energy Agency?]
While Irvine leaders also repeatedly discussed leaving, they no longer look poised to exit after Probolsky’s firing.
Huntington Beach’s discussion on the power authority is scheduled to start at 8 p.m., and can be viewed here.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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