By George, Weiss was right about Community Choice Energy
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reports that the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) has been recognized as one of the top 10 green power providers in the United States. That’s not the Southland, or California; that’s the nation.
NREL is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The office is headed by Dr. Martin Keller, a microbiologist and fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. So, he has science chops, and the agency he leads has bona fides.
That said, less than a month ago, city officials told me and others that Laguna would not opt before the end of this year to receive cleaner and, in many instances, lower-priced electricity. Had we done so, we would have had such benefits a year earlier than postponing such a move. George Weiss was the only council member who, last October, openly advocated for adopting Community Choice Energy (CCE) as soon as possible through our city’s participation in the OCPA. That would have meant saying “yes” at the end of this year. Too bad he did not prevail.
While it is true that the OCPA two years ago was horribly mismanaged, during the past year, as I and others have observed, a thorough house-cleaning of that agency has taken place. A new, seasoned, and highly competent interim CEO, Joe Mosca, has been installed. Councilman Weiss has met with Mosca, as have I and others in our county (see my Indy column on Nov. 10). I just learned from Mosca that he has applied for the permanent CEO position. Even if he doesn’t get the position, he says he’s staying with the agency. The OCPA has a new board, which includes Irvine councilwoman and prominent UC Irvine biology professor Dr. Katherine Treseder. Months ago, she expressed confidence to me that the necessary reforms had essentially been completed. In short, the agency has blazed from zero to sixty faster than a Tesla and now is receiving national recognition for its operations.
One former critic of the old OCPA, Sen. Dave Min, whose environmental knowledge and legislative achievements are extraordinary by any measure, now says he’s happy to join his fellow 115,000 Irvine households that obtain their electricity through OCPA.
While we learn this good news regarding OCPA, the OC Register reported (Nov. 30) that the reformed agency will run on 38% percent renewable electricity that is 2% cheaper than Edison’s regular rate. On an average bill, that works out to $1.68 less a month. Households wanting 69% renewable energy can pay $4.01 a month more than Edison’s rate. One hundred percent clean energy would cost our households $6.85 more per month. Meanwhile, Edison reportedly has asked state regulators to approve a 6% rate increase for its users beginning Jan. 1, which would raise average bills $9 a month. This should further incentivize cost-conscious Laguna ratepayers and City Hall to adopt CCE.
As I write this column, the United Nations weather agency, that is, the World Meteorological Society, has reported that 2023 has been the hottest year in recorded history. To slow climate warming and minimize its calamitous environmental impacts, scientists widely agree we must rapidly electrify our power grid to accommodate ever more renewable energy. Cities, through CCEs, are an integral part of this effort.
Had our city followed George Weiss’s forward-thinking leadership months ago on CCE, Laguna’s Edison customers would have sooner been able to obtain a cleaner mix of affordable, renewable electricity. Not having done so, the next best thing would now be for City Hall to lose no more time and join with the other more than 200 California municipalities/counties that have already gotten on board with cleaner CCE electricity.
What do you call a proven council leader who’s been right on CCE (and many other public matters)? “Mayor Weiss” has a nice ring to it.
Tom Osborne is an environmental historian and book author. With his wife, Ginger, he co-leads the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. [email protected].