Power to the People

Like community schools, parks and hospitals, public power utilities are local institutions working to meet local needs. Public power means homes and businesses run on electricity provided by a not-for-profit, locally owned utility. That means the community has more control, so all the benefits produced by public power—including affordable energy costs, better service, and a focus on local goals—stay in the community.

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. In the end, public power does exactly what its name suggests; it puts power in the hands of the public.

The Origins of Public Power

Public power actually has a long history in the United States. Locally owned public power utilities first appeared more than 100 years ago when communities created electric utilities to provide light and power to their citizens. Throughout the end of the 1800’s and the first decades of the 1900’s, the number of utilities grew rapidly.

And while many utilities were sold to larger interests during the 20th century, thousands of communities chose to preserve this valuable asset and the local control it provides. Today, 49 States (all but Hawaii) have a public power system and comprise a collection of more than 2000 community-owned electric utilities, serving over 45 million people.

Benefits of public power include:

  • High reliability
  • Immediate access to local rate-setting authorities
  • Local service and repair access
  • Long-term focus on community growth
  • Greater portion of revenues stay in the community
  • Local employment
  • Attractive nature of community-delivered electricity to new and relocating businesses
  • Greater awareness of local energy needs