The Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), the region’s new energy provider, is facing a crisis of leadership and a call by the Irvine City Council to audit the agency.
OCPA is a community choice energy agency that was established to give member cities a greater mix of renewable energy. Currently, OCPA’s members include Irvine, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Buena Park, and unincorporated areas of Orange County.
OCPA CEO Brian Probolsky filed a whistleblower complaint on May 31 against Board member Dan Kalmick and former Board member Mike Posey (who are also Huntington Beach City Councilmembers), alleging that they violated various public meeting laws in a conspiracy to oust Probolsky.
Since the beginning of OCPA, Probolsky—a politically connected figure in Orange County who has served as chief of staff for three OC Supervisors— has been criticized by climate activists and others for lacking experience in the field and facing ethics complaints when he worked for the County.
At a special meeting on June 14, Irvine City Council voted 4-0 to conduct a comprehensive audit of OCPA. Irvine was the founding member of OCPA and fronted the initial costs of the agency. Notably, Irvine Councilmember Mike Carroll, who is the chairman of the Board of OCPA, was not present at this special meeting.
Councilmember Larry Agran, who called the special meeting, said, “When the Orange County Power Authority was established…we were promised three things:…cleaner electricity generated from non-fossil fuel sources such as solar and wind, thereby reducing our carbon footprint. Second, OCPA promised to deliver cheaper electricity as compared with our current provider, Southern California Edison. Third, OCPA promised transparency so we would know everything we needed to know about its operations…I regret to report that each of these promises has been broken.”
Irvine Mayor Farrah N. Khan, who is also on the board of OCPA, said, “As the only city that has loaned the initial startup costs for the OCPA, I think it is very important that there be transparency and I agree with the financial audit of the organization…And we also want to make sure that [OCPA] provides programs and resources and incentives for the community and provide the fastest method toward achieving 100% renewable energy.”
At the special meeting, climate activists like Linda Kraemer from Climate Reality OC, expressed support for the audit, and expressed their belief in the importance of OCPA in procuring renewable energy and fighting climate change.
“I have full confidence that the Board of OCPA is strongly invested in the agency’s success, and they are working extremely hard to make that happen,” Kraemer said. “Orange County is critically behind when it comes to climate action.”
Probolsky submitted a letter to Irvine City Council saying that he welcomes “all inquiries and audit requests…and that OCPA is a transparent organization.”
Fullerton Mayor Fred Jung, who is on the Board of OCPA, said he supports Irvine’s audit and that he believes the whistleblower complaint needs to be investigated.
“The number one thing as a Board of Directors that we have to do, and we have a fiduciary duty to do it as soon as possible, is to do a thorough, independent investigation of all things Orange County Power Authority,” Jung told The Observer.
This is not the first leadership crisis the OCPA has faced. In December 2021, less than a year into her position, OCPA Chief Operating Officer Antonia Castro-Graham abruptly resigned her position, following reports of a conflict between her and Probolsky.
In April of this year, just a month after it started serving business customers, OCPA was issued a nearly $2 million fine by the California Public Utilities Commission for failing to purchase enough electricity to ensure that its customers have uninterrupted service. Jung said that many providers were issued similar fines, and that OCPA is appealing the fine.
Despite the leadership and transparency issues, Jung said he still believes in the goals of OCPA.
“I still believe in the Orange County Power Authority,” Jung said. “I think it is an important step in fighting climate change. If you really believe that it’s the largest existential threat to our well-being, then we’ve got to do all the things we can to help mitigate it.”
OCPA is expected to start serving residential customers in October.
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Categories: Local News
I am neutral on the change. My dad will make his own call. Nevertheless, “No guts, no glory” might apply here. I think we have 60 days to change back after October 1st? Check out this YouTube video: Community Choice Energy: Enabling Communities to Center People and Planet. Then you’ll see what a weak beer of an article this is from the F.O. Irvine, Buena Park, and Hunting Beach also have counsel meetings about this on Y.T. Payments will still be payed to the order of S.C.E. The O.C.P.A. would not be a provider, only a purchaser. S.C.E. distributes and delivers power either way. Private utility CEO’s pull down a cool mil per year. A community purchaser does it for about one third of that. 1 to 3 percent is estimate on bill savings. It’s more about buying from clean local sources, and backing the upstart of even more sources in and out of California. Good luck!
Who pays this brand new Utility’s $2,000,000.00 fine in October?
First public “ outreach” arrive today … three-weeks before automatic enrollment. WTFO? That looks fishy at best!
The idea of “if you do nothing, you agree to be enrolled” is misleading, demeaning, and just offensive. I almost threw out the letter, because it looked like junk mail, and not one of my monthly bills. First, I have no time for this “climate emergency”. It’s called The Weather. It gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Sometimes it rains. Fossil fuels are one of the biggest blessings ever given to mankind. This natural resource and the hard working men who extract it, are singularly responsible for the way of life that we enjoy.
Second, I just found out about this Probolsky guy, but I’ve known about Larry Agran and the regular cast of criminals that have led Irvine for decades. They’re on my S#IT LIST already, and now he is too.
Here’s a concept for the OCPA: Set up a massive solar farm at that “GREAT PARK” rather than filling the rest of that area with more over priced homes. Maybe wind turbines offshore along our coastline. Without any infrastructure to back up this claim of clean energy, all of the power is getting into the same transmission and distribution system as all of that “dirty power” – Electrons are electrons once they are in that line.
Just got the barely-there mailer informing me of this new “authority” today. I opted out in an hurry!!!
Government rarely gets it right. This is a case in point. We should be deregulating energy, not creating more government agencies that are just vehicles for more corruption, greed and power that don’t deliver on false promises.
Great idea deregulate just like Texas
Hey Fullerton native, why do you make a choice to live in Fullerton? Just move out of the stupidest city in the county to a smart city or smart state. Save us all the stupid comments.
You know what happened when you ass-u-me, yes?
I don’t live in Fullerton any longer. Left years ago because of the same situation you have now! You could do the same, or maybe you already have. Kudos to you if this is the case. I only speak the truth, sorry if it is uncomfortable for you.
If there is a stupid decision to be made, you can bet your bottom dollar, Fullerton will make that decision. Stupidest city in the county. Too much nepotism and good old boy politics STILL running this city….they will never learn or change.
I truly think we are being taken for a ride by this brand new power company and it should be fully investigated ASAP. I think the city of Fullerton really ought to rethink their joining up with this company. I for one will not be switching from SCE to OCPA.
Just received the first mailer on this topic today. Their public outreach is non-existent. I thought it was junk mail except for the fact that I read it and said: “What Orange County Power Authority?”. I bet most people will discard this and not even know they are being auto-enrolled. BTW – They still need to depend 100% on Edison’s infrastructure to transmit and distribute this power. This is the craziest thing of I have heard of in a while. Folks will be up in arms once they don’t pay their first few bills to the right provider, get switched back to Edison and then have to still pay the gap bill to some random provider they didn’t know they had. Likely incurring penalties and charges to re-activate with Edison. This is not how to go about getting clean power. That can be regulated to Edison with no need for this middle-man brokering.
Wow – thanks for this story – great reporting.