The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to end their contract with the OC Power Authority, the county’s first clean power supplier. Supervisors cited ongoing transparency concerns which have been outlined in numerous audits and a scathing grand jury report released earlier this year.
OCPA launched with great excitement in April of 2020. The non-profit community choice energy provider allows local governments to purchase energy directly, instead of relying on for-profit utility companies. But questions about transparency and management have dogged OCPA since the outset. Staff has been accused of approving contracts without proper bids, multi-million dollar purchases have been approved without proper review, and customers have not been properly informed of increases.
“There has been a pattern of failure and/or resistance to providing information to the Board, even when the information has been specifically requested,” according to the grand jury. “Information has been made equally unavailable to the member cities and the public.”
Despite these criticisms, OCPA CEO Brian Probolsky could not point to any changes OCPA had made since the audits.
Supervisor Katrina Foley was the deciding vote Tuesday.
“I was so hoping I wouldn’t have to make this vote,” Foley said. “It boils down to trust and transparency for me, and I don’t trust the information. I don’t think we’ll be able to fix what I think are systematic operational issues.”
Supervisor Don Wagner, an OCPA board member, called on his colleagues to hold the line.
“It’s at this point way too early I think for us to pull the plug on an agency that has demonstrated financial viability,” Wagner said. “Openness and transparency are fixable issues.”
The pullout will cost the county an estimated $65 million — another reason cited by Wagner.
According to Voice of OC, OCPA staff “have refused to turn over 96% of the records justifying that price tag, opening questions on whether or not a legal battle between the county and the agency is in the near future.”
OCPA already provides power to the cities of Fullerton, Buena Park, Irvine and Huntington Beach. It wasn’t set to begin servicing the county until next year. It remains to be seen whether the cities that contract with OCPA will nix their contracts too.