Orange County is one step closer to getting government-run energy following a move by the city of Irvine, and some neighboring cities are ready to jump aboard.

The Irvine City Council voted this week to move toward establishing a community choice aggregation (CCA), sometimes referred to as community choice energy, and will invite Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Tustin to join.

Forming a CCA enables local officials to choose what kinds of energy to buy for their communities. Participating governments get a say in setting rates and designing incentives for clean energy technologies. Southern California Edison would continue to deliver electricity through a partnership and be responsible for building and maintaining power lines and other infrastructure as well as billing customers.

The matter is on track to be presented to the California Public Utilities Commission by Jan. 21.

Marin County launched California’s first CCA, in 2010. There are now 19 such government-owned utility programs across the state. None is in Orange County.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley and Councilwoman Andrea Marr wrote a letter last week supporting the Irvine Finance Commission’s recommendation to form a joint powers authority.

“Irvine has the opportunity to join a growing number of cities that are reducing energy costs and carbon emission using community choice energy,” the letter said.

Costa Mesa is in the early stages of studying whether to embark on community choice energy, it stated.

In August, Huntington Beach City Council members Barbara Delgleize and Kim Carr proposed a CCA feasibility study in their city, and the council voted to look into CCA and directed staff to proceed with a request for proposals. City staff expects to present the council with the RFP results in the first quarter of 2020, Chi said. The council will then decide whether to go forward with a study.

Laguna Beach completed a preliminary CCA feasibility study in 2018. “The study concluded that the potential cost savings for the city purchasing electric utility on its own could range between 4 percent and 6 percent,” said Shohreh Dupuis, assistant city manager and director of Public Works. “However, due to a recent California Public Utilities Commission ruling on how investor-owned utilities can recover costs from customers leaving their system, this cost saving is now less than 2 percent.”

Costs could even rise if the city decided to buy from “greener” energy sources, she said. “Therefore, the city of Laguna Beach is not pursuing starting or joining a CCA at this time.”

Participants expose themselves to risks associated with energy market conditions, fees and other charges from Southern California Edison and ratepayers opting out of the switch.

“We have had a very, very ugly history ... with the city thinking we should get into the utility business,” said Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Kuo. “I just want to be doubly, triply, quadruply sure that everything that is being represented to us passes muster.”

“In many — not all — of the JPAs that Irvine is a part of, we get the short end of the stick. We end up footing the bulk of the bill,” Kuo added. “Our money is treated fairly, but our vote isn’t always treated fairly.”

Fundamentally, however, Kuo backed the sentiment that Irvine should claim its place as “first through the gate” in establishing alternative energy procurement in Orange County.

(c)2019 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.