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Orange County Power Authority partners with Southern California Regional Energy Network

Huntington Beach City Councilman Mike Posey asks a question during a meeting of the Orange County Power Authority.
Huntington Beach City Councilman Mike Posey asks a question during a community feedback meeting of the Orange County Power Authority at the Huntington Beach City Council chambers in August.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Orange County Power Authority has made a key partnership as it plans to launch service next spring.

The public utility, a Community Choice Energy program formed as an alternative to Southern California Edison, announced recently it has teamed up with the Southern California Regional Energy Network.

The partnership will give OCPA member cities — currently Huntington Beach, Irvine, Fullerton and Buena Park — access to programs designed to use energy more efficiently. Working with SoCalREN, the OCPA will be able to identify and implement energy efficiency projects in public city facilities and schools.

“In my discussions and doing my research on programs, I started thinking about the SoCalREN,” OCPA Chief Operating Officer Antonia Castro-Graham said. “When I worked in Huntington Beach, I partnered with them to do a number of energy efficiency programs. They said, ‘You’re going to do municipal programs? So are we. Why don’t we just partner together?’”

The Regional Energy Network was formed in 2012 by the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We can work together to have more resources, including financial resources, to have more money to do more programs,” Castro-Graham said. “Their expertise, coupled with ours and our desire to launch programs when we launch service, is really a benefit to the four cities that are our members.”

Lujuana Medina, an environmental initiatives sections manager for SoCalREN, said in a statement that the collaboration will be beneficial, especially considering the large scale of the OCPA.

“OCPA doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel and can accomplish major initiatives more efficiently by tapping SoCalREN’s collective experience,” she said.

The Orange County Power Authority is still planning to launch service for municipal, commercial and industrial accounts in April, Castro-Graham said, with a notification period that starts in February. Residential service is scheduled to launch in October 2022.

Not everyone is a fan of this particular CCE program. Dr. Kathleen Treseder, a biology professor at UC Irvine and co-founder of the group OC Green Power, this summer called on the OCPA to replace chief executive Brian Probolsky.

Probolsky, whose annual salary is $239,000, lacked previous experience in the energy field. His head role has soured Treseder on the OCPA; she recommended to the Laguna Beach City Council that it not join.

“When Irvine voted to start [a CCE program] up, we thought we had made incredible strides toward renewable energy,” Treseder said. “As OCPA has been developing and progressing, I’m getting more and more concerned about it. I’m not convinced that it’s actually going to deliver cleaner energy when it starts up.”

The San Clemente City Council last month rejected joining the OCPA, opting instead for Clean Energy Alliance, a Carlsbad-based CCE.

Still, Treseder said the partnership with SoCalREN could be a positive.

“In general, any collaboration between OCPA and a seasoned group of knowledgeable professionals is welcome,” Treseder said. “The CEO is new to the energy realm, and I think that the more resources he has to draw on, the better for the agency.”

Castro-Graham said the OCPA is continuing community outreach. On Wednesday night, she attended the Huntington Beach Environmental Board meeting.

“I think the more that we talk about the good things that we’re doing, and people hear about these exciting programs and how they’re going to benefit them, the narrative will change,” she said.

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