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OCPA Continues to Mislead Existing & Potential New Customers

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Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) recently issued a press release outlining the agency’s strategy for enticing new cities to join its ranks. The press release states the agency is offering price discounts along with increased renewable percentages of its energy products. OCPA’s push for new members comes as Huntington Beach prepares to leave the embattled agency. 
 
The fact is, OCPA is not delivering what it advertises. OCPA is simply an energy trading house organized as a Community Choice Energy (CCE) agency. It competes against Southern California Edison (SCE) for the procurement of energy, while SCE continues to deliver everyone’s electricity. 
 
OCPA’s operations are farmed out to a group of highly paid consultants who operate many of California’s CCE agencies using a template that hides sub-par results from naïve consumers. 
 
Recent disclosures from state regulators should serve as a warning to existing and potential OCPA customers.
 
The California Energy Commission, which OCPA cites as “proof” of its renewable energy content, has determined energy reporting guidelines are fundamentally incomplete. (This is code for under-reporting of carbon emissions — resulting in fictitious greenhouse gas reduction claims.)
 
The change in reporting will impact agencies like OCPA that rely upon large amounts of lower-cost intermittent wind and solar energy, which require lots of stealth gas-fired power to keep everyone’s lights on whenever the wind stops blowing or the sun sets. (75% of OCPA’s advertised energy is claimed to be intermittent wind and solar power.)
 
OCPA’s spiking carbon emissions conform to the power industry’s axiom that the largest suppliers of intermittent renewables are also among the biggest users of fossil-fired generation.
 
It’s little wonder that OCPA continues to stonewall public requests for purchase and re-sale data. If the agency was telling us the truth, it would race to release the documents which would independently confirm OCPA’s “stellar” claims of delivering nearly 100% renewable energy to everyone.  
 
Flawed energy reporting and pricing puts a focus on the Irvine City Council, which is just one vote away from duplicating Huntington Beach’s exit from OCPA.  Irvine Councilmembers (and paid OCPA board members) Tammy Kim and Kathleen Treseder, along with Mayor Farrah Khan continue to support OCPA — even after reports have shown that OCPA re-labels dirty power as “wind” and provides so-called “renewable” energy that out-browns the dirtiest fossil-fired power plants in the western United States. 
 
Advertisements about lower electricity rates are loaded with half-truths and omissions. OCPA’s latest press release states: “SCE is increasing its rates on the delivery side, so OCPA customers will see that increase on their bills, but OCPA is decreasing rates on the generation side.” That statement is full of misrepresentations.
 
SCE announced its own generation discount in December, which is why OCPA followed suit in January. OCPA’s price is calculated by tracking SCE’s rates in the California Public Utilities Commission hearings, and then shaving off a one-third cent per kilowatt-hour.
 
What OCPA fails to mention is that most ratepayers receive no discount. OCPA’s so-called “discount” applies only to the agency’s lowest energy product (Basic Choice). The discount does not apply to Irvine residents and businesses that were forced into OCPA’s higher-priced “100% Renewable” product. In fact, average Irvine OCPA residential customers and small commercial ratepayers are being charged higher monthly rates than SCE.

In the process of providing its so-called discount, OCPA banks more than $33 million of the community’s money.
 
The Irvine community spends about $150 million annually for an unquantifiable environmental benefit. Irvine would be better off spending that money on proven carbon-reduction actions, such as planting trees within city boundaries or solarizing rooftops.
 
It is underhanded for OCPA to mislead consumers with parsed information and half-truths. Even the agency’s opt-out notifications include misleading text. And, because electricity bills still come from SCE, most ratepayers don’t even realize that they were forced into the more expensive OCPA plan more than a year ago.

Cities considering joining OCPA should be warned that what is represented is not delivered.  There are low-cost alternatives to OCPA — free of on-going liabilities — that deliver real help to the environment without misleading anyone. OCPA is not the answer to the climate crisis.

Jim Phelps

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