The public power option is not new. Local communities have long had the right to own and operate their own electric utility or to grant a franchise to a private or investor-owned (IOU) utility. The reason to do so varies. Many communities choose public power because they want lower rates, or better reliability, or improved service. This freedom to choose how electric service is provided is a local rights issue and a cornerstone of consumer protection.
Today, there are more than 2,000 public power utilities in the U.S., serving communities as small as Shelly, Minnesota (with fewer than 100 customers) and as large as Los Angeles, California (with more than 1.4 million customers). Most public power utilities are owned by cities and towns, but some are owned by counties, public utility districts, and states. Although different in size and location, they all have a common purpose: providing reliable and safe not-for-profit electricity, at the lowest reasonable price, while protecting our natural environment. They are rooted in the American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor to meet local needs.
At the heart of public power is local control -- community stakeholders making policy decisions so that utility services are in tune with customers' needs and values. In public power communities, decisions on vital services that affect every home and business are made through the local democratic process, at the ballot box or by participation in city council and utility board meetings, public hearings, and other public forums.