On Scenic Lake Sinissippi

What Is Public Power?


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.

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, more than 2,000 communities across the country enjoy the advantages of public power.

No Stockholders, Just Neighbors.


Other utility companies are sometimes called “public” because they provide electric services to everyone—but that doesn’t make them true public power utilities. 

Because local public power utilities are owned and operated by the communities they serve, there are no stockholders to please or profits to make. Rates are set locally—usually by citizen-controlled boards in open meetings where community members can influence local energy policies. Local needs are considered when decisions are made about rates and services, power generation and green alternatives. And that way, public power revenues can be reinvested in community programs and projects that do the common good.

Public power utilities are not-for-profit. They’re local. And that makes all the difference.