Huntington Beach City Council gets on board with Community Choice Energy

Community Choice Energy
Community Choice Energy allows local government control over energy procurement to purchase power, set competitive rates and collect revenue.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Huntington Beach City Council on Thursday night unanimously voted to support the Community Choice Energy model and become one of the founding members of the Orange County Joint Powers Authority.

In a special meeting, the council voted 5-0 to move into Community Choice Energy. Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz and City Councilman Erik Peterson were absent.

The City Council’s vote would establish Huntington Beach as another proponent of the CCE program that is already being championed by Irvine and Fullerton, and would be funded initially by Irvine.

The Irvine City Council voted on Nov. 10 to move ahead with CCE, which is a public energy program that would buy different types of energy for residents and businesses. Lake Forest and Buena Park are also expected to participate in the JPA, while Costa Mesa also reviewed doing so at a recent meeting.

All Southern California Edison customers in CCE cities would be enrolled in the program, tentatively named the Orange County Power Authority, which would be scheduled to begin in 2022. However, they could opt out and choose to purchase directly from Southern California Edison.

Jurisdictions that join the OCPA in 2020 would be considered a founding party, and will be placed on the OCPA Executive Committee.

“With COVID and everything, it’s taken quite some time to bring this back,” Mayor Kim Carr said. “But watching Irvine develop their JPA, it’s become readily apparent that this is a great opportunity to take advantage of it at a low risk … It’s imperative that we become a founding party member and be a part of that executive committee. You don’t make the decision for today, but you’re looking out 10, 15 years from now. While it may not seem that important that you’re part of the executive committee right now, when there’s maybe only four or five cities involved in the JPA, as this starts to blossom and grow it will be imperative that we’re on that executive committee.”

Costa Mesa officials expressed interest Tuesday in partnering with the city of Irvine in a Community Choice Energy program that would allow member municipalities to purchase and sell electricity.

The CCE model, also known as Community Choice Aggregation, would save residents an estimate of about 2% on their energy costs, said Ryan Baron, special counsel to the city of Irvine. It would allow for the use of more renewable energy sources and less greenhouse gasses, Baron said.

“You can buy power better in bulk, by having more partners with you,” Baron said. “JPAs have been around a long time, and you form them to insulate yourself from liability.”

Many areas of California are either in CCE energy agreements or launching them soon.
(Screenshot by Matt Szabo)

The City Council members present, especially Barbara Delgleize and Dan Kalmick, asked Baron numerous questions. Delgleize went through a laundry list of questions about CCE she said she received from residents.

Some information residents asked about included whether the City Council would set the power rates, or if rates could be increased at any time without regulation. Baron said neither would happen.

“If the residents out there still have questions, please ask them,” Delgleize said. “I would suggest not doing it on social media … There’s so much false information out there, and I’d hate to have it ruin a good program.”

Other Orange County cities have canceled similar holiday events, but around 70 boats are expected this weekend in Huntington Beach. Officials strongly discourage anyone coming from outside the area to watch the boat parade.

The City Council received about 20 supplemental communications about CCEs, many of them encouraging Huntington Beach to join the Joint Power Authority. Not everyone agreed.

Huntington Beach Finance Commissioner Casey McKeon called in to voice his disagreement with CCE during public comments, and Peterson also has been critical in the past.

“Of the thousands of citizens I have met on the campaign trail these last three months, not one citizen said that H.B. needs to get into the energy business,” said McKeon, who ran for City Council this fall. “You’re telling me this issue is a priority over dealing with the homelessness crisis, small business closures, decaying infrastructure, and refinancing our $500 million-plus in unfunded pension liability debt?”

Huntington Beach city staff plan to perform a full financial risk assessment and bring that back to the City Council on Feb. 1. Under the JPA agreement, any city that agrees to join can opt out for any reason and without liability before March 1.

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