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Launched and Thriving: Orange County Power Authority Is the Future of Clean Energy in Orange County

Consumer choice and clean, affordable, and reliable local electricity for everyone in Orange County are becoming a reality thanks to the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA).

OCPA is Orange County’s Community Choice Energy program, a local not-for-profit energy model creating positive change in more than 200 California towns, cities, and counties. There are currently 25 operational Community Choice Energy programs in California serving more than 14 million customers, and with many more in progress, those numbers are set to grow.

For more than a century, Southern California residents have had no alternative to monopoly investor-owned utilities like SoCal Edison and SDG&E, with high energy rates and little to no choice whether their power was clean or dirty. Community Choice Energy programs like OCPA are the only alternative to investor-owned utilities.

SoCal Edison (SCE) and SDG&E continue to spike rates and push for dirty and dangerous fossil fuels. Recently, SCE asked the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to increase average residential rates by more than $9 per month, while SDG&E asked to increase electricity bills by more than $8 per month beginning January 1, 2024.

In fact, according to a recent report by the California Auditor, electricity rates from the big utilities have increased more than 50 percent during the last seven years.

With new leadership and a fully implemented 24-point improvement plan, the Orange County Power Authority has made comprehensive reforms to establish operational excellence and earn the public’s trust. The agency has directly addressed the concerns raised in state and county audits. It has achieved essential benchmarks for success, including paying off its startup loan with US Bank in total, creating a $50 million rate stabilization reserve, being on track for an investment-grade credit rating, and a projected net financial position of $88 million by mid-2024.

Reinvesting revenue back into local communities

Residents of participating communities will directly benefit from those funds. By law, Community Choice Energy programs must use excess revenue for programs that directly benefit the community, such as rebates for energy-efficient appliances, funding for batteries to provide residents energy at low, off-peak rates, solar panels, and more.

In contrast, SCE (NYSE: EIX) has provided dividends or stock splits for its shareholders every quarter for over 100 years. That’s great for their shareholders, but unfortunately, Orange County families are forced to pay for it. OCPA is our only chance at community-centered energy that puts people before corporate profits. When a city joins OCPA, its residents get an alternative to the century-old monopoly, lower rates, increased transparency, and clean energy.

Lower Rates

According to the California Public Utility Commission’s rate comparison portal, the average residential customer will save $2 per month with OCPA’s Basic Choice product compared to SCE rates, demonstrating that renewable energy is both safer and cheaper.

OCPA rooftop solar customers also make 10% more from their extra solar electricity than they would with SCE. This is a good example of how Community Choice Energy programs reinvest money into community programs rather than pouring residents’ money into a monopoly, which is particularly beneficial for cities that don’t otherwise have funding for these programs. These programs bring significant economic benefits to our communities, increasing the development of local renewable energy projects and jobs, decreasing electricity rates, and re-investing ratepayers' money into their communities by investing in climate resilience and neighborhood improvement projects.

Clean Energy

All electricity providers in California are required to analyze the energy procured by the agency in the previous year and report energy sources in a Power Content Label, which acts as a nutrition label for electricity customers. OCPA's Power Content Label indicates the agency is exceeding its goals for clean energy content. Compared to SCE, OCPA’s Basic Choice Product—cheaper than the standard SCE product—contains no fossil fuels and is 62.3% renewable energy. Now, OCPA is a nationally recognized leader in providing renewable energy, winning the title of being the sixth cleanest energy provider in the United States.

New report: Community Choice Energy = less fossil fuel-powered energy and buildings

More evidence showing the need for CCE comes from a new climate policy implementation report from the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy & the Environment and the Institute for Local Government. The report found that cities and counties that belong to a Community Choice Energy program are much more likely to implement building electrification actions, which are key for meeting climate goals.

This is one of the many reasons that Climate Action Campaign has worked so hard to establish three different CCE programs in SoCal, including the Orange County Power Authority. CCEs give residents increased access to rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and more.

Source: UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy & the Environment and Institute for Local Government report, “The Status of Local Climate Action in California,” November 2023.

With substantial reforms, new leadership, and many proven successes, OCPA is Orange County’s only path to clean energy. It’s time for more Orange County cities to join OCPA and extend access to affordable, clean energy and energy resilience programs to more Orange County families and residents.

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