Renewable Energy and Climate Justice in OC

Updated: Jan 21

As Orange County’s first Community Choice Energy (CCE) program prepares to serve customers this year, there are important votes coming to city councils near you. Over the next two weeks, three of the cities that are part of Orange County Power Authority—Buena Park, Huntington Beach, and Fullerton are expected to vote on the default amount of clean electricity that their residents will receive under OCPA.


The first city to vote in the next two weeks will be Buena Park, which thanks to your advocacy, voted to make 70% its default earlier this month. The council will revisit that decision on Jan. 25 because they may finally have enough votes to secure 100% clean electricity. Special thank you to Councilmembers Sonne and Traut for standing with us from the start!


That means we just need one more vote to win 100% for Buena Park. By choosing 100%, Buena Park would reduce emissions by 196,000 metric tons/year, which is equivalent to taking 43,000 cars off the road/annually. Click here to send an email to the council asking them to make this change.

Thanks to so many of you who spoke up, Irvine voted in December to make 70% clean power its default and to reach 100% by 2025. That is a huge achievement that we can all celebrate. The Irvine council had planned to review that decision on Jan. 25, but will not be voting again, which means that their 70% rate selection is set and they will begin slashing emissions this year.


OCPA cities have the option to choose between 35%, 70% and 100% renewable electricity as the default for all electricity users in their cities. We’re pushing each city to commit to 100% renewables as soon as possible because it is one of the most impactful ways for them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions… and we’ll need your help to clinch these wins!


Quick Refresher: What’s Community Choice Energy Again?


CCE is a tried and true way for cities to provide local control and advance the clean energy transition. In California, there are now 23 CCE programs reliably serving more than 11 million customers in more than 180 cities and counties.



The cities that are part of OCPA joined together to buy cleaner electricity at competitive rates. This gives residents real choice in who provides their electricity, a breath of fresh air from SoCal Edison’s monopoly in these cities. OCPA sources the electricity and then SoCal Edison delivers that electricity to homes and businesses through their lines and sends customers a single bill, just like they always have.


Why We Need 100% Clean Electricity In Every City


Here in Orange County, electricity is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, only 35% of your electricity from SoCal Edison comes from zero carbon sources like solar, wind, and geothermal.


We can’t achieve a just, climate-safe future without clean electricity. Through OCPA, we can move rapidly toward a 100% clean electricity future, but cities must lead by setting this as their default package.


How Will This Slash Our City’s Emissions?


Because electricity is such a large part of Orange County’s emissions, opting into 100% clean electricity will slash our emissions. For example, if Buena Park chooses 100% as its default, it will reduce emissions by 196,000 metric tons/year, which is equivalent to taking 43,000 cars off the road annually. Another way of looking at it: this will reduce emissions equal to driving 492,908,159 miles—or the same amount of gasoline burned if all 84,000 people in Buena Park drove from City Hall to the tip of Florida. Every year.


"For example, if Buena Park chooses 100% as its default, it will reduce emissions by 196,000 metric tons/year, which is equivalent to taking 43,000 cars off the road annually."


For us, achieving 100% clean electricity through Community Choice Energy isn’t just about emissions, it’s about equity. Orange County’s environmental justice communities have historically and are currently shouldering disproportionate burdens of pollution under our fossil fuel-powered energy and transportation systems.


California’s mapping tool, CalEnviroScreen, identifies California communities that are most affected by many sources of pollution, and where people are especially vulnerable to pollution’s effects. This tool shows that communities in our region—including neighborhoods in Buena Park, Fullerton, Anaheim, and La Habra—score in the highest percentiles for pollution burden in all of California.


Above: CalEnviroScreen 4.0 - blue and dark blue indicates extremely high pollution burden


In addition to shouldering most of the environmental burdens of our current energy system, Orange County’s working families are also the hardest hit economically by rising energy bills. These families spend the highest proportion of their household income on energy bills and this problem is exacerbated because many low-income families live in housing with older appliances, including heating and cooling equipment that waste a lot of energy. Slashing our emissions through OCPA is a critical step on the path to a healthy, sustainable, and equitable Orange County.


How Much Will Renewables Cost?


Recently, the Orange County Power Authority released an estimated price of electricity, but this may change depending on how many cities choose to offer 70% or 100% renewable energy as their default. Their estimates show that if even one city chooses the 35% renewable energy option, energy will be more expensive for everyone.

"If even one city chooses the 35% renewable energy option, energy will be more expensive for everyone."

This means that if cities don't select 70% or 100% renewable, then the communities that are already experiencing the worst air pollution and paying the highest proportion of household income on energy bills will essentially be paying to keep their communities polluted and financially strapped. This increase in emissions would cost ratepayers more money every month, degrade our health, and put a climate safe future further out of reach.


How You Can Help Win Climate Justice in Your City

We have the power and opportunity to create more just, resilient and climate safe communities. Join us over the next two weeks to win 100% clean electricity for Buena Park, Huntington Beach, and Fullerton!


Again, thanks to your advocacy, Irvine voted in December to make 70% clean power its default and to reach 100% by 2025, which is a huge win.


Also thanks to the many emails and comments you sent, Buena Park also voted for 70% earlier this month and is expected to make their final decision on how much clean electricity they will offer families on January 25th. Huntington Beach and Fullerton will decide February 1st.


Stand up for a climate safe future and speak out via email or in person to your city council representatives. If you want to get involved and learn more, shoot us an email or join the Orange County Climate Coalition.



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