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Orange County Power Authority Partners with SoCalREN to Give OC Cities Options for Renewable Energy

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The Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) community choice energy program has partnered with the Southern California Regional Energy Network (SoCalREN) to implement energy efficiency programs in public schools and city facilities throughout OC.

The partnership is anticipated to give the fledgling OCPA more resources and enable them to launch programs more quickly.

Irvine City Councilmember Mike Carroll commented on the partnership.

“This partnership will enable OCPA to further deploy energy efficiency programs and initiatives within our member communities by leveraging SoCalREN’s technical expertise and capacity,” Carroll said

SoCalREN administers programs to reduce energy use in the Southern California region. The network’s primary goal is to conserve and sustain energy for the future.

OCPA, which gives OC residents and businesses the option to purchase electricity from a public source, is slated to begin providing power for municipal, commercial and industrial purposes as early as April of 2022. The program began providing residential service in October of 2022.

The cities of Irvine, Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Buena Park launched OCPA in late 2021 in order to give residents an option for electricity in lieu of the current supplier, Southern California Edison. The program intends to promote renewable energy while also potentially reducing electricity costs for residents. 

According to the OCPA, one of its main benefits is allowing residents to choose how much of their electricity will come from renewable sources. Partnering with SoCalREN is anticipated to facilitate this process. Since its inception in 2012, SoCalREN has focused especially on optimizing utility efficiency. 

“The partnership is vital as we work towards reduced energy consumption and endeavor to create new, resilient energy efficiency programs for public agencies,” SoCalREN Environmental Initiatives Section Manager Lujuana Medina said.

In addition, the OCPA claims to offer stable and competitive electricity prices. The city of Irvine has predicted that adopting the program could reduce customer costs by 2%. 

However, the initiative has come under scrutiny for several reasons, including an alleged lack of transparency. Some believe the Joint Powers Agreement, which started the organization, is imprecise and vague. Opponents to the initiative claimed that the organization’s first few months did little to clarify customer expectations.

Some argue that even as the company touts their dedication to clean energy, they plan on drawing too much power from “conventional” sources like natural gas.

UC Irvine biology professor and OC Green Power Co-founder Dr. Kathleen Treseder has expressed unease about the program.

“As OCPA has been developing and progressing, I’m getting more and more concerned about it. I’m not convinced that it’s actually going to deliver cleaner energy when it starts up,” Treseder said

The company announced that they plan to supply 57% renewable energy by 2030. However, when compared with the state of California’s goal to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045, critics argue that the OCPA’s goals are not rigorous enough from a sustainability perspective. 

Many have also pointed to the $239,000 annual salary of OCPA CEO Brian Probolsky as a point of contention. Probolsky underwent several ethics investigations while employed in OC government positions. In addition, he was granted a top position in OCPA despite having no experience in the energy utility industry, leaving some skeptical of his intentions. 

Elaina Martin is a City News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at elainarm@uci.edu.