An Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) board member wanted the OC Board of Supervisors to stay the course rather than abandoning their community choice renewable energy program. Instead, the supervisors voted to withdraw from their OCPA contract at a Dec. 20 meeting.
“The ability to provide green power is one that we don’t want to let slip through our fingers and though it is beyond question that there are challenges, it’s certainly possible that pulling out of the power authority now would exacerbate those challenges rather than solve them,” said Don Wagner, who is also a member of the OC Board of Supervisors.
Headlines such as ‘Whistleblower complaint sends Orange County Power Authority into a Roil’ and ‘Grand jury slams O.C. Power Authority’s inexperienced leadership, lack of transparency’ have plagued the community choice program since it began six months ago.
The supervisors decided to pull the plug on the public utility with a 3-2 vote. Supervisor Wagner was among the supervisors who voted against ending the joint power agreement, which was listed as Item 33 on the agenda. See the official update from OCPA on 12/22/22.
“You’ve got a startup organization here with enormous promise but facing problems that one would expect in some ways of a startup organization and maybe some that weren’t expected and that have been identified by these audits and future audits that are coming but at least, as a board member of OCPA, I will tell you the organization is pledging to address,” Supervisor Wagner said.
Item 33 was scheduled for a vote by Chairman Doug Chaffee and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett after a county report determined the OCPA was allegedly failing at providing homeowners and business owners with a viable alternative in renewable energy.
The Dec. 9 County evaluation by Local Power LLC and other audits alleged problems that include questionable contracting policies, a staff without industry experience, an overall lack of transparency and a flow of residents opting out of the service.
“They don’t even follow the organizational policies and procedures that they put in place,” said Supervisor Bartlett. “I think it poses too much of a risk for the county and our unincorporated residents.”
In defense of the community choice program, OCPA President Brian Probolsky said the public agency would have interpreted and implemented the recommendations if it had been given a chance. “These are generally issues and processes that can be fixed,” Probolsky added.
The approved measure leaves 130,000 without an immediate option to buy cleaner electricity come January 1, 2023, and is likely to cost the county $65 million, according to Supervisor Wagner.
“That’s not nothing to expose folks to at a time when the balance sheet shows this entity is a viable going concern,” he said. “To run away from OCPA and the ability to bring green energy and choice to our constituents because of press reports is extraordinarily unfortunate.”
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.