What Is Public Power?

It’s not a new idea. In fact, some of the nation’s largest cities—Los Angeles, San Antonio, Seattle and Orlando—operate locally owned electric utilities. Of course, many public power utilities serve as few as 3,000 customers. One thing unites them all, no matter how big or small: a commitment to community and affordable, responsible 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. 

Public Power Defined