What is public power

What is Public Power

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, solar, wind, landfill gas, 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.

Other types of electric utilities include 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 co-ops.

Public Power Benefits

Local governments operate public power utilities to provide reliable, responsive electric service to residents and businesses. These utilities are directly accountable to the people they serve through local governing boards.

Municipally owned electric systems offer distinct benefits to their owner-customers, including:

  • Responsiveness to customer concerns – every citizen is an owner with a direct say in policies
  • Improved local government efficiency and collaboration through sharing of personnel, equipment and supplies
  • Emphasis on long-term community goals
  • Quick response from crews located in the community
  • Not-for-profit status – no split allegiance between customers and stockholders
  • Greater portion of revenues stay in community
  • Local employment
  • Economic development – not-for-profit electricity attracts and keeps businesses
  • Sustainability and environmental goals match those of the local community
  • Access to tax-exempt financing for capital projects
  • Opportunity for efficiency through integrated utility operations (e.g., operation with electric, water, sewer, garbage, gas)
  • Local management and operations bring added community leadership for innovation and development
  • Recognized commitment to conservation and safety
  • Local control over special programs
  • Local control over the electric distribution system aesthetics and design
  • Local control that allows matching resources to local needs
  • A competitive standard against which the service of all utilities may be measured