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OCPA’s Survival Depends on Concealing Documents & Overcharging Electricity Customers

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The Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) is in a race against time. On one hand, the agency is facing the public’s increasingly pointed questions about the legitimacy of OCPA’s supposedly clean energy products. On the other hand, OCPA is stockpiling a massive self-survival reserve fund — growing toward $100 million — to insulate the agency from tens of thousands of electricity customers “opting-out” of OCPA.
 
The public has asked OCPA to release its CAISO (California Independent System Operator) settlement statements — which would show OCPA’s purchases; resales; and actual delivery of renewable products to the California electricity grid. So far, OCPA refuses to provide these statements, which contain an accurate accounting of the granular charges incurred by OCPA when its electricity flows over the state’s power grid. CAISO settlement statements also identify much of OCPA’s purchases of system power (dirty brown power).

OCPA hides behind the false claim that releasing the CAISO statements would reveal “load shaping” and could undermine its energy procurement strategy. Load shaping is a term that applies to the unscheduled purchase or sale of energy by OCPA. Shaped energy purchases are frequently gas-fired or system power (brown power) because those resources are more readily available, especially at night when solar and wind — which constitute 75% of OCPA’s total energy purchases — cannot be counted on as reliable power.

Since competitive energy suppliers can today get needed information from large customers who carefully track this expense, there’s no good reason for OCPA to withhold load shaping information from the public.
 
This brings us to the most likely reason OCPA refuses to release the agency’s CAISO settlement statements. OCPA knows that undesirable brown power and greenwashing — the rebranding of dirty brown power and selling it as “renewable” — will be exposed if the statements are released. That would likely trigger an avalanche of questions and ratepayer departures from OCPA, which would undermine the continuing growth of the agency’s reserve fund. That fund is essential to OCPA’s financial model and its pursuit of a coveted credit rating, which is required for the agency to issue bonds. Bottom line: OCPA’s future relies on sleight of hand — placating, misdirecting and controlling its currently overcharged ratepayers and potential new member cities.  
 
OCPA’s reserves which have been accumulated by overcharging its business and residential customers  are projected to top $100 million by its fiscal year 2024/25.
 
OCPA’s website whitewashes its record and launches a “no-problem-here” narrative around its gaming of California’s power grid and the resulting legitimacy of its so-called “clean energy” deliveries. (A legal proceeding is currently underway at the California Public Utilities Commission.)
 
Sleight of hand and misdirection are in OCPA’s DNA:

  1. OCPA’s claim of investment in local renewable energy projects is baseless. Last year, none of OCPA’s reported 133 renewable energy projects were located in Orange County.
     
  2. OCPA claims to “green the grid” with its purchases of renewables in distant locations. However, several of OCPA’s clean energy projects emit significant amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG), including these resources that exceed California’s brown power mix.
     
  3. OCPA falsely portrays its “100% Renewable” product with accounting gimmicks and cherry-picked transparency. All OCPA ratepayers — including “100% Renewable” ratepayers — require base load power to maintain overall electricity reliability. OCPA buys much of its base load power from dirty biomass resources and from Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant. OCPA then shuffles its total energy deck by reporting the “100% Renewable” product as pristine while 100% Renewable’s biomass and nuclear volumes are reported in OCPA’s lower tiered products.
     
  4. The price for OCPA’s lowest renewable product (Basic Choice) is ratcheted up to just under SCE’s price. And then, premiums are added for OCPA’s “Smart Choice” and “100% Renewable” products. This diverts what should be ratepayer savings to OCPA’s coffers.
     
  5. OCPA exports ratepayers’ money to east coast energy developers and to its primary energy wholesaler Shell Energy, which, according to Federal regulators, gamed the state’s electricity market and cost Californians $779 million dollars. (Audio file transcripts of Shell energy traders can be accessed here.)

OCPA also dismisses requests for information from members of its own Community Advisory Committee. This committee was supposedly established to improve communication and trust.

Irvine’s City Council should insist that OCPA’s accrued reserves — tens of millions of dollars — be returned to OCPA’s customers. The Council should then begin the process of shutting down this so-called “not-for-profit” agency.

Irvine residents can opt-out of OCPA online, or by calling (866) 262-7693.

Jim Phelps

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