Huntington Beach hosts community forum to discuss power play

Residents of Huntington Beach have choices to make in the not-so-distant future when it comes to their energy use.

The Orange County Power Authority, a New Power Source of Community Choice, recently hosted a community feedback workshop in Huntington Beach city council rooms.

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

Huntington Beach City Councilor Mike Posey, who sits on the Orange County Power Authority Board of Directors, and City Councilor Natalie Moser attended the August 26 workshop. Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize participated via Zoom.

Antonia Castro-Graham, former assistant to the city manager in Huntington Beach and current deputy city manager in Fullerton, is the director of operations for the Orange County Power Authority. She led the hour-long meeting with Julie Castro and Laurel Rothschild of the Irvine-based non-profit Energy Coalition.

At the end of the meeting, Castro-Graham spoke about the importance of publicizing the new CCE option.

“I think there is a lot of confusion about how [Community Choice Aggregation] works, and so much misinformation, ”Castro-Graham said. “Not only do we need to do more of these feedback sessions on energy efficiency programs, but we need to be there to explain what it is. People think I’m in charge of the grid. I would love to be, but the network is controlled by [California ISO]. This is a partnership between Southern California Edison and us. We just buy the electricity and they distribute it. You could still have a power outage, because Edison’s controlling it. We just control where we buy the sources from.

“I don’t think people understand that. They think, “Are you going to be reliable? but we don’t control the grid. We just buy the electricity and schedule it to go on the grid, but we don’t control the lines, wires, or transformers.

Huntington Beach City Councilor Mike Posey asks a question during the OCPA community feedback meeting on August 26.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

The workshop covered seven different energy programs that OCPA 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 who are heavy energy consumers, and certification support for small green businesses.

Two programs were showcased that will benefit residential customers, including a residential energy scan and targeted energy efficiency rebates, as well as tenant-focused multi-family upgrades. A worker matching and training program will partner with local community colleges, and the OCPA also plans to offer municipal incentives for energy efficiency upgrades.

Rothschild said there are two avenues of funding through the CPUC.

“One way is a lot faster, but it’s a smaller pot of funds,” Rothschild said. “We’re probably going to consider recommending one to three of these programs as part of this first path… with these one to three programs being launched in mid-2022. The other programs we have discussed, assuming there is still interest, would be in this longer term application. You would see them in a few years.

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

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

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