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Irvine City Council to Consider Options for Reducing the City’s Skyrocketing Electricity Costs

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Most people don’t give it much thought, but the City of Irvine itself is a huge electricity customer. In recent years, the City has been paying roughly $500,000 per month to Southern California Edison (SCE) for electricity — to literally keep the lights on at City Hall and all other City facilities, and to light our streets, parks, and athletic fields.

Since joining the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) last April, those electricity costs have skyrocketed. In fact, the City is now paying tens of thousands more every month for the same electricity that SCE provides. That added cost to the City is paid for by Irvine taxpayers.

On March 14th, the Council will consider ways to lower the City government’s electric bill, including possibly switching back to SCE to save the City — Irvine taxpayers — upwards of $90,000 a month. (Last December, Councilmembers Larry Agran and Mike Carroll advocated for pulling the City out of the embattled OCPA.)

This week, the City’s Finance Commission heard a report by Dahle Bulosan, Irvine’s Director of Administrative Services. His report outlined several money-saving options for the City. The report was requested by Finance Commissioner Don Geller, who was appointed to the Commission by Councilmember Agran in January.

Bulosan reported that the City is currently enrolled in OCPA’s top-tier 100% renewable plan, which is costing tens of thousands of dollars per month more than the previous year’s bills when the City procured its electricity from SCE.

During the February 28th City Council meeting, Councilmember Agran called OCPA “a train wreck” and said that for the City to be paying more for the same electricity from OCPA is “just burning taxpayer money and getting absolutely nothing for it.”

Opting down to OCPA’s lower tiers of 69% renewable or 38% renewable could save the City about $15,000 or $45,000 per month, respectively, Bulosan said. Leaving OCPA entirely and enrolling in SCE’s 100% renewable plan could save the City about $92,000 monthly, he reported.

Bulosan noted that the SCE 100% renewable plan has a waiting list and it is not known how long it might take to accomplish the transfer. Also, OCPA will charge a termination fee to leave its system, although the agency has told City staff that it does not know how much that fee would be.

Bulosan also noted in his report that SCE confirmed to City staff that its 100% renewable plan actually does purchase 100% renewable power, whereas OCPA has so far refused to provide evidence that it is actually purchasing green energy.

Roger Bloom

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