Huntington Beach officials are switching residents enrolled in a 100% renewable energy plan to the lowest renewable energy plan to save money as they exit the controversial Orange County Power Authority (OCPA).
At a special meeting Monday, city council members narrowly voted to make the switch to 38% renewable energy for customers and to do so expeditiously.
“This is coming before us in order to mitigate any cost for our city moving forward,” said Mayor Tony Strickland at Monday’s meeting. “The OCPA was a disaster from the very beginning and now I believe professional experts are going to be running our energy.”
Councilmembers Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser abstained. Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton was absent.
Kalmick said if the city had stayed in the county’s power authority, they wouldn’t have to mitigate any costs and said the city will lose millions in their departure from the agency.
“We’re going to leave $10 million in the hands of the power authority that is Huntington Beach’s money that our ratepayers paid,” he said, adding most residents who are still getting power from the agency are on the 100% renewable energy plan.
“This action tonight doesn’t guarantee this is a free leave,” Kalmick said.
Moser said leaving the power authority removes the ability for residents to choose where they get their energy from, adding the move was a political one that did not weigh in the fiscal or environmental impacts.
“We have a responsibility to our community, including to our children and our grandchildren to respond to climate change,” she said. “We’re effectively removing a tool from our toolbox to be able to do that for the future.”
Staff said the city pays $3.25 million in electricity costs charged by the power authority and the switch back to Southern California Edison could mean an annual increase of $32,000 to $65,000 a year.
Surf City officials decided to withdraw from the Orange County Power Authority in May after a series of scathing state and county audits found the agency failed to communicate with residents and properly oversee contracts.
But the exit won’t be formal till July of next year.
Huntington Beach isn’t the only municipality that left the OC Power Authority.
County of Orange officials also ditched the green power agency.
That leaves only Irvine, Fullerton and Buena Park as committed member cities.
In the aftermath of the audits, agency leaders fired CEO Brian Problosky and pledged to increase transparency.
Since the decision in May, Huntington Beach leaders have been negotiating with Power Authority officials on how to make the exit without raking up costs, according to a staff report.
Officials say switching residents from the 100% renewable energy plan to the 38% renewable energy plan quickly will help make that possible.
Some residents Monday called on the city to stay in the green power agency, worried about the impacts of climate change and noting the changes at the OC Power Authority.
Kalmick and Moser also said the power authority has addressed the concerns highlighted in the audits.
Some residents Monday pushed back against opting residents to the least renewable energy plan without their input and making the decision in a rushed special meeting – something they said has happened before when it came to the power authority.
Residents can still opt back up to a 100% renewable energy plan, the 69% renewable energy plan or opt to get energy from Southern California Edison after the council’s decision until the city formally exits the Power Authority.
Strickland said he believes in renewable energy, but defended the decision to leave the power authority.
“I just really firmly believe we’re doing right by our citizens in Huntington Beach by getting out of OCPA and having professionals in Edison run it.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Since you’ve made it this far,
You obviously care about local news and value good journalism. Help us become 100% reader funded with a tax deductible donation. For as little as $5 a month you can help us reach that goal.