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Publisher’s Perspective: OCPA’s Continued Broken Promises

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As the publisher of Irvine Community News & Views (ICNV), I want to be very clear: We at ICNV believe in the importance of climate action and support Irvine’s ambitious goal to become carbon-neutral by 2030. But, the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) is not the way to get us there.

Promises of lower electricity rates from OCPA before the agency’s launch in 2022

OCPA was established by local politicians who wanted so badly to be seen by voters as “green” leaders that they created the agency — even though they had no understanding of the complex electricity market or the financial burden they were placing on our City’s taxpayers and electricity ratepayers.

Their lack of knowledge was on full display when the OCPA board hired their political consulting buddy — who had no prior experience in the electricity sector — to run the agency and to negotiate hundreds of millions of dollars in energy purchasing agreements.

After four scathing audits, millions of dollars in fines, and the highest customer “opt-out” rate in the state, the new OCPA board announced their plan to “fix” the agency by replacing the political consultant with a public relations officer and handing him $750,000 to rebrand the organization.

As part of the rebranding effort, Irvine’s two representatives on the OCPA board, Councilmembers Tammy Kim and Kathleen Treseder, parrot the agency’s misleading statements.

For example, Councilmembers Kim and Treseder recently announced that OCPA has delivered  “100% renewable” electricity to its Irvine customers. That’s simply not true!

There is not a separate transmission line pumping 100% renewable electricity into the homes of OCPA customers. Everyone in the state receives power from the same source — the California electricity grid.

According to the California Energy Commission, the California electricity grid delivers 54.23% green energy from non-Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitting sources and renewables. Non-GHG resources include nuclear (9.18%) and large hydro (9.24%). Renewables include solar (17.04%); wind (10.83%); biomass (2.15%); geothermal (4.67%); and small hydro (1.12%).
 

Chart obtained from the California Energy Commission website

 

California still depends on gas-fired electricity generation to maintain a reliable electricity grid. This dependency is especially true in the evenings when electricity demand remains high while unreliable solar generation drops off … and before onshore wind electricity generation might ramp up.

It is true that OCPA has purchased large amounts of solar, wind and other renewables. And, some of their renewable energy purchases have been added to the California electricity grid. But, large amounts of OCPA’s renewables have been sold off to other states, or never make it onto the electricity grid because there is not enough customer demand to consume the electricity during periods of over-generation. And, adequate battery storage technology has yet to be developed. Batteries that do exist have overheating and fire problems, as well as environmental and human rights issues associated with mining and disposal.

Councilmembers Kim and Treseder also proclaim that OCPA is “2% cheaper than Southern California Edison (SCE),” even though they know that the cheaper rate applies only to the handful of electricity customers who have “opted-down” to OCPA’s lowest renewable tier (Basic Choice). Kim and Treseder never mention that Irvine households were forced into the highest tier (labeled “100% Renewable”) — which is on average $36 per month more than SCE’s 100% renewable plan.

In just the past year, Irvine residential electricity customers have been charged in excess of $30 million more for the same 100% renewable electricity plan that SCE provides its residential customers.

And, the City of Irvine —  which is a business customer of OCPA — has wasted more than $1.6 million in Irvine taxpayer dollars since April 2022 to cover the higher electricity bills OCPA charges to light and cool City Hall, our parks, our sports fields, and all other City facilities.

Extra money paid by Irvine ratepayers & taxpayers over the past year.

 

Next Sunday, we will begin a three-part series by guest columnist Jim Phelps, who possesses a deep knowledge of the electricity market here in California. For decades, Mr. Phelps worked as a power contractor and utility rate analyst. He spent four years helping the California Energy Commission implement clean energy truth-in-advertising legislation. Since 2009, Mr. Phelps has worked as an investigative journalist, tracking “Community Choice” organizations, analyzing their projected and actual deliveries of truly “clean energy.” His research into OCPA has uncovered numerous accounting and advertising abuses, which he will report to our readers. You’ll want to read Mr. Phelps’ first article on Sunday, October 29th.

Franklin J. Lunding

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