Public power is a collection of more than 2,000 community-owned electric utilities, serving over 49 million people or about 15 percent of the nation’s electricity consumers.
Public power utilities are operated by local governments to provide communities with reliable, responsive, not-for-profit electric service. Public power utilities are directly accountable to the people they serve through local elected or appointed officials. Municipal systems have a diversified power mix, purchasing power on the wholesale market, as well as generating electricity from coal, hydro, wind, landfill gas, and other renewable, natural gas, diesel and distributed resources.
Municipal electric systems are held to public accountability standards. Public records, open meetings, competitive bidding, public budget hearings and prevailing wage laws are just a few of the public accountability standards unique to most municipal electric suppliers.
There are two other types of electric utilities: investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and rural electric cooperatives (co-ops). Most retail electric customers in the nation (68 percent) are served by IOUs, which are private stockholder-owned, for-profit companies. About 13 percent of electric customers are served by electric cooperatives.