Huntington Beach holds community forum to discuss power play

Antonia Castro-Graham speaks at the Huntington Beach City Council chambers on Aug. 26.
Antonia Castro-Graham, the COO of the Orange County Power Authority, speaks during a community feedback meeting at the Huntington Beach City Council chambers on Aug. 26.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach residents have some choices to make in the not-so-distant future regarding their energy usage.

The Orange County Power Authority, a new source of community choice energy, recently held a community feedback workshop in the Huntington Beach City Council chambers.

Surf City is one of four cities currently participating in the OCPA, which was formed in November 2020. The other cities are Irvine, Fullerton and Buena Park. The organization gives a city’s businesses and residents a choice of who they buy energy from, rather than just having Southern California Edison as the de facto option.

Huntington Beach City Councilman Mike Posey, who serves on the Orange County Power Authority board of directors and Councilwoman Natalie Moser attended the Aug. 26 workshop. Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize participated via Zoom.

Antonia Castro-Graham, a former assistant to the city manager in Huntington Beach and current deputy city manager in Fullerton, is the chief operating officer of the Orange County Power Authority. She led the hourlong meeting along with Julie Castro and Laurel Rothschild from Irvine-based nonprofit the Energy Coalition.

After the meeting ended, Castro-Graham talked about the importance of spreading the word about the new CCE option.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion about how [Community Choice Aggregation] operates, and so much misinformation,” Castro-Graham said. “Not only do we need to be doing more of these energy efficiency program feedback sessions, but we need to be out there explaining what this is. People think that I’m in charge of the grid. I would love to be, but the grid is controlled by [California ISO]. This is a partnership between Southern California Edison and us. We simply buy the power, and they distribute it. You could still have your power go out, because Edison’s controlling it. We’re simply controlling where we’re buying the sources from.

“I don’t think people get that. They think, ‘Are you going to be reliable?’ but we don’t control the grid. We just are buying the power and scheduling it to go on the grid, but we don’t control the lines and wires or the transformers.”

Huntington Beach City Councilman Mike Posey asks a question during the OCPA community feedback meeting on Aug. 26.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The workshop covered seven different energy programs the OCPA eventually plans to implement with its funding through the California Public Utilities Commission. They included three business programs: business energy analysis and targeted energy efficiency rebates, hands-on energy project support for customers that are large energy customers, and green small business certification support.

There were two programs presented that will benefit residential customers, including residential energy analysis and targeted energy efficiency rebates, as well as multifamily tenant-focused improvements. A worker match and training program will be in partnership with local community colleges, and the OCPA also plans to offer municipal incentives for energy-efficient upgrades.

Rothschild said there are two funding paths through the CPUC.

“One pathway is much quicker, but it’s a smaller pot of funds,” Rothschild said. “We’re probably going to be looking at recommending one to three of these programs under that first pathway ... with those one to three programs being lauched in mid-2022. The other programs that we discussed, assuming there’s still interest, would be in that longer-term application. You would see those a few years from now.”

OCPA service for municipal, commercial and industrial members would go online next spring, Castro-Graham said, with residential service set to launch in October 2022.

Huntington Beach residents and businesses would automatically be enrolled in the OCPA, but everyone will have the opportunity to opt out and continue service with Southern California Edison.

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