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, natural gas, landfill gas, diesel, hydropower, solar and other renewable 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
Public power customers have a special relationship with their utility. They are consumers as well as owners, with a voice in utility policies. Local control can greatly improve a community’s quality of life by providing:
- Adequate and safe electricity
- Service shaped to meet local needs
- Advantages for economic development
- Special commitment to wise energy use
Public power has many distinct characteristics that benefit consumers and contribute to community progress. One of the most important benefits is local control. Every resident of a public power community is a utility owner, with a direct say in policies that affect rates and service. Among public power’s many other benefits are:
- Efficient service. Providing services consistent with sound business practices, public power systems are accountable to their customer-owners, not stockholders.
- Commitment. Public power systems are committed to conservation, safety and sustainability, and work to meet long-term community goals.
- Economic development. Not-for-profit electric rates attract and maintain significant business and industrial development.
- Transparency. Public records, competitive bidding, public hearings and prevailing wage laws are just a few of the unique accountability standards of a municipal electric system.