The city of Stanton is actively considering participation in Orange County’s Community Choice Energy (CCE) program, a public initiative that will grant local governments broader control over the county’s energy market and offer customers flexibility in purchasing renewable energy options.
Spearheaded by the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), the program’s current participants include the cities of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Fullerton and Buena Park.
A report reviewing the CCE was presented to Stanton City Council members at a special agenda study session meeting on Feb. 23. Among the report’s attachments were a third-party feasibility study completed by MRW & Associates and a rebuttal from Southern California Edison (SCE) detailing an alternative proposal.
“MRW’s study found that overall, the OCPA appears feasible,” the feasibility study said. “Given current and expected market and regulatory conditions, OCPA should be able to, over the long run, offer its residents and businesses customers electric rates that are less than Southern California Edison (‘SCE’) rates.”
The study states that implementing CCE in Lake Forest as a member of the OCPA would be financially and technically viable. It also evaluates additional options such as the city’s independent formation of a CCE program to compare a variety of factors including rates, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, local economic benefits and startup costs.
According to the study’s findings for Lake Forest, joining the OCPA would provide comparable or moderately lower rates than SCE, no startup costs and would offer economic advantages accompanied with local governance.
On the other hand, SCE’s presentation shared information regarding the impacts of remaining completely within the private utility’s jurisdiction; with CCE, only billing and electricity grid control would fall under the company’s authority.
“SCE supports customer choice,” the presentation said. “We believe in supporting customer choice as long as (1) all customers are treated fairly and customer indifference is maintained, and (2) grid reliability and safety are preserved.”
According to SCE, the utility offers a “practical and affordable” pathway to reach California’s environmental policy goals, such as Senate Bill 100, which mandates 100% renewable energy throughout the state by 2045.
“As the grid gets cleaner, so too does everything connected to it,” the presentation said. “Customers who embrace an electric-led future will see greater reductions in energy costs.”
In addition to the company’s proposed commitment to transition to renewable energy forms, SCE also claims to invest in local communities through philanthropic funding and employee volunteering initiatives.
As for community opinions, an independently conducted survey by True North Research found that among Lake Forest residents “85% of respondents are much more or somewhat more likely to purchase electricity from the City” if rates are lower. However, if costs are the same, 38% of respondents prefer purchasing energy from the city versus 29% who said they would continue to purchase from SCE.
Stanton City Council is expected to continue to weigh these options and consider how these conclusions may apply to the city’s government, economy and residents.
While the city of Santa Ana has also expressed interest in OCPA CCE, it will defer these discussions to a later date. Public Works Director Nabil Saba claimed the city’s participation would not yield financial benefits for residents until at least 2027.
OCPA is slated to officially initiate the countywide CCE program between spring and fall 2022.
Ariana Keshishian is a City News Apprentice for the winter 2021 quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.