While the county withdrew last year, Huntington Beach is the first city to remove itself from the green power agency.
“Since the very beginning, the Orange County Power Authority has been a total disaster and doomed for failure,” said Councilmember Casey McKeon, who represents Huntington Beach on the agency’s board. “I believe in providing choice to consumers, but I don’t believe the government is a vehicle to providing choice in the private sector, especially not in the incredibly complex and volatile energy market.”
McKeon, along with Mayor Tony Strickland and fellow councilmembers Pat Burns and Gracey Van Der Mark voted to withdraw from the OCPA during a special council meeting added for after Tuesday’s regular meeting, May 16.
Councilmembers Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton voted to stay.
Expressing concern with the OCPA’s ability to procure additional energy, McKeon said Southern California Edison is better equipped to obtain resources to protect the grid, making it a “safer option for our residents.”
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But Kalmick argued there is still too much unknown about how the decision to leave will impact Huntington Beach residents.
“We have no idea what this is going to cost,” Kalmick said, suggesting the city should hire a consultant who could prep the city on the implications of its decision.
“We are deeply disappointed with the reckless action the Huntington Beach City Council has taken to withdraw from the Orange County Power Authority,” said its board chair Fred Jung, who is also the mayor of Fullerton. “Not only does this eliminate the opportunity for Huntington Beach to take bold steps against climate change, it strips away renewable energy choice from its residents and businesses.”
Huntington Beach announced the special meeting Monday evening, adhering to the 24-hour notice it must give residents. Several residents provided comments ahead of the meeting, decrying the quickly called meeting, with no staff report on the potential impacts.
And it was “sudden,” too, for the OCPA board, said Jung.
“The staff at Huntington Beach did not telegraph this, nor did they let our staff know at the Power Authority that this was a consideration for them,” Jung said.
“Huntington Beach families and businesses want and deserve an alternative to the decades-long fossil fuels-powered SCE monopoly,” he said. “Huntington Beach has put politics ahead of the health and well-being of those who call Huntington Beach home.”
The OCPA board, fired CEO Brian Probolsky last month and later appointed its director of communications to helm the agency in the interim.
Huntington Beach is the second-largest entity that is part of the OCPA, Jung said, noting “there will be a financial impact” to the City Council’s decision.
Aside from Huntington Beach and Fullerton, the OCPA serves Buena Park and Irvine.
The OCPA launched in 2020 as an alternative to Southern California Edison, offering more renewable energy blends as the county’s first community choice energy program. Both residential and commercial customers receive power purchased through the agency.
However, it was not without controversy. An audit by the Orange County Grand Jury, reviews by the county and a state audit all critiqued the OCPA, particularly its leadership, for its management, pricing strategies and transparency.
The OCPA has since implemented 80% of the reports’ recommendations, with the rest slated to be completed in the coming months, Jung said. Leadership, from the CEO to general counsel, has been removed; the board has more oversight; and the CEO’s unilateral ability to sign off on certain items has been scaled back, he said.
“By the end of the summer, the Orange County Power Authority will be a beacon of what community choice energy aggregates can be,” he said.
The new Huntington Beach council leaders have eyed potential changes to the city’s agreement with OCPA since the new majority took over late last year.
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