Guest Opinion: Green Light

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Greening Laguna via the Orange County Power Authority

By Tom Osborne

Would you like electricity that is cleaner and two percent cheaper than Edison offers? Would you like Laguna to join with the more than 200 other California cities and counties that run on a higher mix of renewable (non-fossil fuel) energy than that offered by the utility monopolies—Pacific Gas and Electric, Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric?

If you answered yes to both questions, please email our city council ([email protected]) of your support for Community Choice Energy/Aggregation via our town joining the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA).

A video appearing on that entity’s website features OCPA vice chair, Dr. Kathleen Treseder, distinguished UC Irvine biologist and climate researcher, telling viewers humanity has until 2030 to reduce carbon emissions dramatically to avoid the worst impacts of a warming planet. To combat climate change, she said, is why she ran for the Irvine City Council recently (she won her seat), and that’s also why she simultaneously serves as vice-chair of the OCPA. In the video, Dr. Treseder reports that in Irvine, large developers and other major business interests are strongly supportive of CCE and OCPA. They like the savings on their electricity bills while helping the environment at the same time. 

Recently, I emailed attorney Joe Mosca, interim CEO of OCPA, asking for any updates on the not-for-profit clean energy-providing organization he leads that is headquartered in our county’s greenest city, Irvine. The updates sent me note that the prestigious National Renewable Energy Laboratory, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, designated OCPA as a Top U.S. Green Power Provider in 2023. That’s not all. The Asian Business Association of Orange County honored OCPA as the Sustainability Advocate of the Year. Similarly, the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce bestowed its Elevate award on OCPA for empowering and supporting the Filipino business community. 

OCPA’s accolades result from the service provided to its member communities, which include Buena Park, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, and Irvine. 

This amounts to more than 31,000 commercial customers and 200,000 residential ratepayers. Of these, some 188,000 customers have chosen 100 percent renewable energy. The clean electricity purchased by these customers is estimated to have prevented 709 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to this high-performing agency. So, while saving on electricity bills, OCPA ratepayers effectively combat climate change at the local level.

Our family in Laguna Beach has been taking steps for more than a decade to minimize our carbon footprint. Since 2014, we have driven an electric car that is powered by our solar rooftop panels. A year ago, we replaced our gas stove with an induction range. Several days ago, we replaced our gas furnace with an electric heat pump that provides warmth in the winter and cool air in the summer. Also, we eat mainly plant-based foods and largely avoid single-use plastic bottles. In short, we try and sometimes fail to do our part in combatting the climate crisis. I say this because as important as these individual and family efforts are, they won’t get us even close to the fifty percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 that the leading climate scientists claim is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of a warming planet.  

To meet that 2030 goal, nothing short of public policies will suffice. Putting a national price on carbon, say the leading scientists, is the fastest, surest way to dramatically reduce emissions. Even that won’t be enough. Still, Community Choice Energy/Aggregation, along with a carbon price, would take us and the next generations a long way toward a livable climate.

Based on what I’ve heard from Council member Alex Rounaghi and his colleagues on the panel, City Hall seems likely to decide on OCPA membership this year. Let’s let them know our support.

Tom Osborne is an environmental historian and journalist. He and his wife, Ginger, co-lead the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which advocates for a carbon price. [email protected].

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