With the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) preparing to begin residential electricity service on October 1st, required notices are being sent out to Irvine residents. However, the notices contain no understandable rate information and include scant mention of the right of ratepayers to “opt-out” of the new OCPA plan.
The OCPA is made up of the cities of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Fullerton and Buena Park, along with unincorporated areas within the County of Orange. Irvine is funding the Power Authority through 2022, having already advanced $7.7 million in taxpayer funds to OCPA. No other member cities were asked to pay to join.
OCPA was originally billed by proponents — Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmembers Mike Carroll and Anthony Kuo — as being a cleaner and cheaper alternative to Southern California Edison (SCE), the utility that supplies power to the region. However, a rate structure unveiled by OCPA in January showed its customers will pay more than SCE ratepayers for the same percentages of clean power.
All Irvine ratepayers are going to be automatically switched to OCPA’s highest-paying rate plan in October, unless they exercise their right to opt for cheaper plans or “out-out” of OCPA altogether and remain with SCE.
When business and government customers were switched to OCPA in April, there were widespread complaints from business owners that they were facing higher costs and were not given information on the new service. Most notably, they were not adequately informed that they could choose to opt-out.
Despite the confusion and lack of information, 5% of the business and commercial ratepayers did opt-out (including many of the largest commercial customers in Irvine) and another 25% “opted-down” to lower-priced plans.
Since taking office, Councilmember Larry Agran has raised red flags about OCPA, saying: “In 2019 and 2020, Irvine ratepayers were promised three things: cleaner energy, lower rates, and transparency. All three of those promises have been broken.”
The notices being sent to Irvine residential ratepayers tout “CLEANER POWER AT COMPETITIVE RATES” in large red letters, but nowhere does the notice say exactly what those rates are, or that they are more costly than the SCE rates residents are currently paying. The opt-out provision is mentioned about two-thirds of the way down, with more than 500 words of fine print that fills the bottom of the large postcard.
Meanwhile, a similar lack of meaningful information continues to stall an audit of OCPA by the City of Irvine.
During the August 9th City Council meeting, Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi reported that the City is still waiting to receive documents from OCPA that it requested in June, when the City Council authorized him to lead an audit of the agency. A handful of documents received from the Power Authority last month were vague and of little value, said a City Hall staffer with knowledge of the matter.
Without the documents, many of which are basic financial and accounting forms that should be readily available, the audit cannot proceed. Potential auditors cannot even bid the job because the scope of work is unknown.
“This is a big stall,” said Councilmember Agran, who has questioned the OCPA business plan since he first rejoined the City Council in December 2020. Agran stated: “This is either a case of gross incompetence or purposeful deception … or both. Whatever the case, you have to wonder what they’re hiding.”
- Have your SCE bill with you. (You will need your SCE account number.)
- Call (866) 262-7693 and select “4” to opt-out.
- Select “2” to continue opting-out.
- Enter your 12-digit SCE customer account number followed by the pound sign (#).
- Enter your zip code followed by the pound sign (#).
- Hang up after receiving confirmation you have opted-out.
You will need to scroll down to the bottom of the webpage where you will see an opt-out form (located along the right side of the page).
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