CEO’s Report: We are Public Power…and why it matters

October 2, 2017

As we celebrate Public Power Week and tout all the benefits it provides, you may be asking yourself why it matters.

Is it a big deal if your customers know what type of utility provides their electricity?

It turns about half of them know they’re served by public power, according to our recent survey.

A good chunk of the other half simply don’t know what type of utility they’re served by and a few think they’re served by a rural electric cooperative or an investor owned utility.

Public power utilities across the country are having the same identity issues as we are here, so we aren’t alone. But we should see this as an opportunity to educate our customers on the public power model and how they benefit from it.

Why does it matter?

You’ve heard the phrase “knowledge is power.” The more knowledge people have about your utility, the more likely they are to be supportive. Having a clear understanding of how the utility works and how decisions are made gives people a sense of ownership and can give them a sense of pride in their utility and their community. Lack of knowledge typically only leads to discord.

In most situations, consumers have a choice where they spend their money. That’s usually not the case with electricity.

While consumers may not choose their utility, they need to know their money is being used wisely because public power utilities are local establishments working to meet local needs.

Like public schools and libraries, public power utilities are owned by local governments for the benefit of the citizens they serve. Municipal governments who own their power systems have more revenue available to help with essential services throughout the city.

On average, public power utilities pay 5.6 percent of electric operating revenues back to the community – through taxes, fees and special services.

Local needs are considered when decisions are made and public power revenues can be reinvested in programs, services and projects for the good of the people served.

One of the most important benefits of public power is that the public has a voice in the operation of the utility. Decisions are made at the local level by those elected to represent the interests of all citizens. Citizens may not agree with every decision made, but they are made in open meetings where citizens can provide their opinions. They also can run for open seats on councils or commissions.

Because the utility is local, customers should know that if they have questions about their bill, their service, or anything related to the utility, they can call or stop in the local utility office. They’ll get answers from a local, friendly face rather than a stranger in another town or state.

Public power also promotes economic development and supports business growth because they are invested in the success of the communities they serve.

Public power utilities create jobs locally. Each dollar of a public power employee’s paycheck circulates through the local economy an estimated four to five times.

Customers also need to know we’re advocating for them. Their interests are being heard at the state level and in Washington because Heartland and American Public Power Association are spreading the messages of affordability and reliability.

Public power represents every citizen it serves. We should all be proud of our public power status and remind customers every chance we get of all the great things it offers.

For all these reasons and more, I encourage you to promote the public power brand in your community this week and always. Be proud of your utility! Utilize the resources provided by Heartland and APPA. Don’t be shy about telling people how lucky they are to be served by public power.

Because public power is hometown power and WE are public power.