Over the past year, news outlets across Southern California have been publishing articles that detail the troubles and missteps of the six-member Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) board.
The board is led by Irvine City Councilmember Mike Carroll. Mayor Farrah Khan is also a board member, serving with Carroll as Irvine’s representative.
The OCPA board first drew media scrutiny when they hired longtime County staffer and political operative Brian Probolsky. With zero experience in the energy field, Probolsky was named CEO of the newly created multi-million-dollar Power Authority.
Even though Irvine taxpayers are funding OCPA, neither Carroll nor Khan have allowed any public presentation or discussion regarding how Irvine taxpayer dollars are being spent. When asked about financial transparency, Carroll told the Voice of OC last year: “We’re not in a typical public agency. This is not a civil service … this is about as private as a public agency can get.”
Early on, the board voted unanimously to allow CEO Probolsky to enter into contracts with little or no board oversight.
After promising that OCPA would deliver greener energy at lower rates, there was media outcry when the board voted to charge customers higher rates than they currently pay for electricity provided by Southern California Edison (SCE).
State regulators have also been critical of the agency. Epoch Times revealed this week that “much of OCPA’s power is from out-of-state windmills and solar panels.” That led to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) imposing a nearly $2 million fine against OCPA for failing to reach “resource adequacy.” Resource adequacy is the reliable back-up power that keeps the lights on when intermittently unreliable windmills and solar panels stop producing power. According to the PUC, failing to reach resource adequacy puts electricity customers at risk of summertime blackouts.
With commercial customers continuing to opt-out of OCPA; with the agency’s projected $42 million loss in its first two years; and now with the PUC fine, the board has begun to turn on one another. As Huntington Beach’s new representative on the OCPA board, Councilmember Dan Kalmick attempted to organize a special meeting last week to discuss the “potential dismissal/release” of Probolsky. When he learned of the plan, Probolsky issued a letter through his lawyer accusing Kalmick of impropriety and claiming whistleblower status.
With less than four months to go before every Irvine resident is scheduled to be transferred out of SCE and enrolled in the new, more expensive OCPA electricity plan, the agency’s future appears uncertain and there is growing doubt regarding its long-term viability.
Since taking office in December 2020, Irvine City Councilmember Larry Agran has repeatedly called for his Council colleagues to join him in demanding a detailed explanation regarding where Irvine’s money has gone. Just last week, Agran sent yet another official request to his colleagues, urging that the Mayor and Council call a special City Council meeting to publicly direct the City Manager to commence a City audit of OCPA and assess the City’s exposure to liability. As of press time, neither the Mayor nor other Councilmembers have supported Agran’s call for a special Council meeting.