Irvine‘s future with the Orange County Power Authority is once again on shaky ground.

The City Council is set to debate Irvine’s continued membership with the green power agency on Tuesday, May 23, at the behest of Councilmembers Larry Agran and Mike Carroll.

Irvine’s discussion of its future with the ratepayer-funded agency comes after Huntington Beach recently voted to pull out of OCPA, with one councilmember alleging the agency was “a total disaster and doomed for failure.”

While the county withdrew last year before any customers in its territories were transferred over, Huntington Beach is the first of the four member cities to remove itself from the green power agency.

And Agran, who along with Carroll previously supported withdrawal, wants to follow suit.

“I understand what Huntington Beach has done, and I believe Irvine should do the same thing,” Agran said after Huntington Beach’s vote. “My job is to protect Irvine ratepayers and taxpayers, and I think the best protection was getting out as soon as possible.”

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However, it is unclear if Irvine will have the required majority vote to withdraw at the upcoming meeting.

Mayor Farrah Khan, who previously served on the board of the OCPA, lambasted Huntington Beach’s decision.

“It’s unfortunate that people have politicized OCPA from its onset without taking the time to understand what a community choice energy program is or how it benefits our residents and businesses,” Khan said.

Councilmember Kathleen Treseder, who was highly critical of the OCPA in December, now sits on its board and said she is “feeling very optimistic” about the ratepayer-funded agency’s future.

Since its inception, the OCPA has been marred by 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.

However, the agency has tried to turn things around by implementing audit recommendations with personnel changes, including firing CEO Brian Probolsky and installing the communications director, Joe Mosca, as interim chief.

The current board, Treseder said, is “cleaning up” its founding documents “to remove any loopholes that would allow misconduct.”

One of the major concerns in the audits was the OCPA’s Oversight Committee and how it was set up, Treseder said.

“The Oversight Committee was basically the fox guarding the hen house,” she said.

OCPA’s board has installed new members for that committee, including Treseder and Fullerton Mayor Fred Jung, and is pushing for “transparency and ethical actions,” said Treseder.

Treseder does not expect Agran and Carroll to have the required votes to withdraw Irvine.

“But you never know,” she said. “I am often surprised by the council’s decisions so we’ll see what happens.”

In December, City Manager Oliver Chi estimated it would cost Irvine approximately $145 million to withdraw from the OCPA, but the city would be able to recover money through resales of power contracts.

Irvine does not have updated numbers on withdrawal costs, Chi said, because staffers “haven’t done any more formal analysis on that particular item recently.”

Because of the way the city’s agreement with the OCPA is structured, if Irvine votes to withdraw on Tuesday, Chi said, the city would be a member through June 2024. Huntington Beach will also be a member until then.

Both residential and commercial customers of the member cities, which include Buena Park and Fullerton, receive energy through the OCPA. While OCPA’s rates for its “Basic Choice” plan (where 38% of the energy procured is renewable) are now below the Southern California Edison equivalent, the rates for SCE’s 100% renewable energy package are lower than OCPA.

“The difference though is that the Southern California Edison 100% renewable tier is oversubscribed, and so you can’t enter into it currently; you get on a waitlist,” Chi said. “The Power Authority renewable tier is available to all customers.”

The City Council meeting starts at 5 p.m. on May 23 at 1 Civic Center Plaza.

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