Last week, Irvine voted to remain in the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), Orange County’s first and only Community Choice Energy (CCE) Program. Irvine’s vote to remain in the OCPA demonstrates its commitment to protecting residents and creating affordable, healthy, safe, and clean communities.
We know that the tide of contradictory information before the vote was confusing, so let’s unpack common questions and dive into some myths around community choice energy ⬇️
What is Community Choice Energy (CCE), and how does it work?
Community Choice Energy is the only alternative to investor-owned utilities. Most of us are used to monopoly investor-owned utilities like SoCal Edison, which have complete control over what type of energy we use and the rates we pay for that energy, which they use to pay dividends to their shareholders.
According to the California Public Utilities Commission, SoCal Edison increased rates for the average household 45% from 2016 to 2021, and they plan to raise rates by another 45% by 2030. SoCal Edison’s rate increases are more than double the rate of inflation. OC families cannot afford these endless rate hikes.
CCEs are different. As not-for-profit agencies, CCEs must use excess revenue to create increasingly resilient, clean, and local energy systems and stable, competitive consumer pricing.
→ Did you know that SoCal Edison plans to increase electricity rates by another 45% by 2030?
In 2017, 42% of households with children under six could not pay their energy bills. This doesn’t have to be our reality. CCE programs like OCPA allow cities to decide how much clean energy we can get and corresponding rates. This gives us a direct say in the energy we use in our homes and schools and how much we will pay.
What are the economic benefits of participating in a CCE program?
CCE programs like OCPA bring major economic benefits to our communities, increasing the development of local renewable energy projects and jobs, decreasing electricity rates, and re-investing ratepayers' money right back into their communities by investing in climate resilience and neighborhood improvement projects. OCPA is implementing several of these programs now.
CCEs can also bring energy choice to OC families for the first time ever. OCPA electricity customers can choose a 2% savings compared to SoCal Edison's rates and a cleaner, more sustainable, and economically resilient energy future.
What impact does CCE have on climate?
Most electricity from SoCal Edison is produced by burning methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. SoCalEdison does not plan to reach 100% clean electricity until 2045 – much too late to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. In contrast, OCPA delivers 100% clean electricity today and gives OC families a choice in how much green energy they use.
Community Choice Energy offers an accessible and affordable path to clean, renewable energy, decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, and driving wildfires, floods, and extreme heat. Using clean energy sources such as solar and wind also reduces air pollution and protects the health and well-being of our communities.
How can I participate in OCPA?
A city can join a CCE after its city council votes to join. OCPA serves Buena Park, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, and Irvine ratepayers. Unfortunately, the city of Huntington Beach recently voted to leave OCPA, but HB residents will continue to be served by OCPA until July 2024. Cities that join OCPA by the end of this year can begin to receive electricity and other benefits in 2025.
What about all the issues I’ve heard about with OCPA?
OCPA got off to a rocky start due to decisions by the previous board and leadership that were not in the community’s best interest, which prompted numerous audits. But OCPA’s new board has made many important improvements in recent months, including replacing the previous failed leadership, providing increased oversight, and bringing transparency and best practices to OCPA operations.
OCPA is delivering real benefits to the community. There is no question that OCPA is Orange County’s only path to clean energy choice and tens of millions of dollars in community benefits. We look forward to organizing community will to add more cities to OCPA this year to make the affordable, healthy, safe, and clean neighborhoods we all deserve a reality.