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Publisher’s Perspective: The More We Learn about OCPA, the Clearer it is that the City of Irvine Must Cut Ties with the Agency

by

Last year, all Irvine electricity customers were automatically enrolled in the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), without a vote of the people.

OCPA promised to deliver greener electricity at lower monthly rates, and to be fully transparent with the public. But, even before OCPA had officially launched, the agency had broken all three promises.

From day one, Irvine electricity customers have been charged higher monthly rates than we paid to Southern California Edison (SCE). And, the agency refuses to release all records that show OCPA’s purchase of system power (dirty brown power); and OCPA’s resale of wind and solar power — demonstrating actual delivery of advertised renewables to OCPA ratepayers.

Promising to do a positive thing and then doing the exact opposite is called “bait-and-switch.”

Over the past three weeks, we have published a series of in-depth articles that have pulled the curtain back on the inner workings at OCPA. The articles were written by our guest columnist, Jim Phelps who is an energy expert, having worked in the power industry for three decades. Mr. Phelps spent nearly four years helping the California Energy Commission implement clean energy truth-in-advertising legislation. He currently works as an investigative journalist, tracking “Community Choice” organizations, including OCPA.

In his first article, Mr. Phelps explained how OCPA has been overcharging its customers through a price-manipulation practice known as “benchmarking.” He also discussed how OCPA appears to be engaged in greenwashing — deceiving ratepayers into believing that they are receiving greener electricity (a higher percentage of renewables) at their homes and businesses than they actually do.

Mr. Phelps’ second article detailed the lack of fiduciary oversight by our City’s two paid representatives on the OCPA board — Councilmembers Tammy Kim and Kathleen Treseder. As Mr. Phelps documented, Kim and Treseder simply parrot talking points fed to them by OCPA’s public relations team.

To the detriment of Irvine ratepayers, Councilmembers Kim and Treseder don’t seem to understand the complexities of the electricity industry. For example, they both stated that energy purchase contracts prove that OCPA is delivering renewable electricity. (They do not.) And, Kim and Treseder apparently believe that OCPA’s power content label represents the agency’s delivered green energy content to its ratepayers. (It does not.) In fact, OCPA’s own documentation reveals that the agency has been substituting unspecified power (California’s generic brown power mix) for its claimed wind energy.

In his third article, Mr. Phelps outlined how OCPA has been amassing a huge “reserve” fund by overcharging its customers. In fact, this unjustified reserve fund is expected to top $100 million within the next two years. He also documented how OCPA buys much of its base load power — the reliable portion of electricity in its overall energy portfolio — from dirty biomass resources and from Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant.

In addition, Mr. Phelps discovered that OCPA’s claim of “greening the grid” with its purchases of renewables is false. A number of OCPA’s reported clean energy projects emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG), including these resources whose GHG emissions exceed California’s brown power mix.

OCPA — which is supposed to be a “not-for-profit” electricity utility — has made tens of millions of dollars over the past year. And, what have OCPA customers gotten in return? Higher monthly electricity bills and misrepresentations about clean energy. It’s time for the City of Irvine to cut its ties with OCPA.

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

Franklin J. Lunding

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