Public Power Week Celebrates Benefits of Publicly Owned Utilities

(C) TriMedia, Branden Bodendorfer

Marshfield Utilities Celebrates Public Power Week

Celebrating reliable, safe, and affordable electricity provided by publicly owned utilities across the US, Public Power Week is an annual national event that is coordinated by American Public Power Association (APPA) in Washington, D.C.

“The event is an effort to make the general public aware of the role that public power plays in delivering energy services,” said Bob Trussoni, General Manager at Marshfield Utilities.

According to the APPA, there are three types of electric utilities: public power utilities, rural electric cooperatives, and investor-owned utilities. The former, which makes up 60% of the utilities in the United States and serves 15% of the population, is not-for-profit, community-owned, and governed by elected/appointed boards.

By contrast, investor-owned utilities are for-profit entities overseen by private boards. These make up 6% of electric utilities in the United States and serve 68% of the population.

“A private utility, like any private enterprise, has its primary goal to make money for its owners,” said Trussoni. “In the case of private utilities, they are typically owned by investors. They are often referred to as Investor Owned Utilities. A few are owned by individuals or even family-owned.”

“A public utility is typically owned by the municipal entity, or a cooperative or district,” he added. “Thus, public power systems are owned by the public. In our case, even though we service Hewitt and the rural areas around Marshfield, we are owned by the City of Marshfield.”

Because they are owned by their customers, public power utilities are more responsive to their customers’ needs.

“Our employees are more responsive to our customer’s needs since they are our owners,” said Trussoni.

Additionally, public utilities are locally monitored. A five-member Marshfield Utilities Commission, appointed by the City of Marshfield Common Council, oversees Marshfield Utilities.

“The commission does not get involved in the daily running of the utility, but they do make higher level decisions for the utility,” said Trussoni. “Each month, when the commission meets, the public has an opportunity to have input into agenda items as well as any other subject for which they may wish to address the commission.”

Furthermore, the utility operates like a business to eliminate political influences that may lessen the efficiency of operations. Plus, control of the utility is local, whereas control of investor-owned utilities is typically from a corporate office in a large remote city.

“While many investor-owned utilities no longer offer local offices where customers can speak directly with employees, Marshfield, like most public utilities, offers a local office for bill paying and service requests,” said Trussoni.

According to the APPA, Public Power Utilities give back 5.6% of electric operating revenues to their communities. Thus, public power equates to local contract, low rates, and high reliability.

Public power costs less than investor-owned utilities’ power. On average, publicly-owned utility customers pay 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour, a significant reduction to the investor-owned utility customers’ average of 13.2 cents per kilowatt hour. (Marshfield customers are even lower- at just over $.09 per KWH.)

Last but not least, public utilities nationwide serve as powerful economic engines for their communities, employing 93,000 people and earning $58 billion in revenue annually, leading to economic development and inviting new business to the community.

“The benefits of public power are numerous and our customers should be proud of their utility,” said Trussoni. “They enjoy low rates and very high system reliability judged on a national scale.”

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