About Public Power

Public power is a collection of more than 2,000 community-owned electric utilities, serving more than 48 million people or about 14 percent of the nation's electricity consumers.

Public power utilities are operated by local governments to provide communities with reliable, responsive, not-for-profit electric service. Public power utilities are directly accountable to the people they serve through local elected or appointed officials.

Some of the nation's largest cities – Los Angeles, San Antonio, Seattle and Orlando – operate publicly owned electric utilities, but many public power communities are small with their utilities serving 3,000 or fewer customers.

For more information download the About APPA Flyer as a PDF or Word doc.


Even those who know they live in a public power community may not know what that means. An animated video presents the basics of public power and explains how a community-owned utility operates. 15, 30, and 90-second versions of the video are available for you to use. 

Additional resources on the benefits of public power

About the Association

The American Public Power Association, based in the Washington, D.C., metro area, is the service organization for the nation's more than 2,000 community-owned electric utilities. Collectively, these utilities serve more than 48 million Americans.

The Association partners with its members to promote public power, helping community-owned utilities deliver superior services through joint advocacy, education, and collaboration.

Shaping the future of public power to drive a new era of community-owned electric service.

The Association was created in 1940 as a nonprofit, non-partisan organization to advance the public policy interests of its members and their consumers, and provide member services to ensure adequate, reliable electricity at a reasonable price with the proper protection of the environment.

APPA partners with its members to promote public power, helping community-owned utilities deliver superior services through joint advocacy, education, and collaboration. It's vision is to shape the future of public power to drive a new era of community-owned electric service.

Policy positions emphasize the importance of hometown decision making that puts customers first and ensures a stable supply of electricity while protecting the environment. Since two-thirds of public power systems do not generate their own electricity and instead buy it on the wholesale market for distribution to customers, securing competitively priced and reliable wholesale power is a priority.


The Association participates in a wide range of legislative and regulatory forums. It advocates policies that:

  • ensure reliable electricity service at competitive costs;
  • advance diversity and equity in the electric utility industry;
  • promote effective competition in the wholesale electricity marketplace;
  • protect the environment and the health and safety of electricity consumers and;
  • safeguard the ability of communities to provide infrastructure services that their consumers require.

Read more on the American Public Power Association.

Read about association programs and activities in our 2016 Year in Review report.

Download an executive summary of the Strategic Plan for 2016 – 2018.

Download the complete version of the Strategic Plan for 2016 – 2018.

Benefits of Public Power

Public power today is an important, contemporary American institution. From small towns to big cities, wherever public power exists, it is an expression of the American ideal of local people working together to meet local needs. It is an expression of the local control that is at the heart of our federalism system.

Public power is also a strong competitive force that provides a "yardstick" for consumers and regulators to measure the performance and rates of private power companies. This continuous competition helps all electric consumers, not just those served by public power.

However, a public power utility has many distinct characteristics that benefit the consumers of the individual community it serves. These benefits include:

  • Lower electricity rates [PDF 32KB]
  • Equal or greater reliability
  • Efficient service – lowest cost consistent with reliability, community goals and sound business practices
  • Responsiveness to customer concerns – every citizen is an owner with a direct say in policies
  • Emphasis on long-term community goals
  • Quick response from crews located in the community
  • Not-for-profit status – lower costs and no split allegiance between customers and stockholders
  • Greater portion of revenues stay in community
  • Utility purchases from local establishments, including use of local financial institutions
  • Local employment
  • Economic development – not-for-profit electricity attracts and keeps businesses
  • Tax payments, payments-in-lieu-of-taxes , and / or transfers to the community's general fund
  • Access to tax-exempt financing for capital projects
  • Cash flow of the utility, which may be channeled through local government treasury
  • Opportunity for efficiency through integrated utility operations (e.g., operation with electric, water, sewer, garbage, gas, cable, telecommunications)
  • Improved local government efficiency through sharing of personnel, equipment and supplies
  • Local management and operations bring added community leadership for innovation and development
  • Recognized commitment to conservation, safety and the environment
  • Local control over special programs (energy conservation, rate relief for certain customer classes, etc.)
  • Local control over the electric distribution system aesthetics and design
  • Local control that allows matching local resources to local needs
  • No economic bias toward high cost, capital intensive techniques or technologies
  • Innovative techniques and technology to meet energy needs
  • Primary mission of providing least-cost, reliable service over maximizing profit
  • A competitive standard against which the service of all utilities may be measured.

Forming a Public Power Utility

More information on forming a public power utility can be found in the Municipalization topics area.

Careers in Public Power

More information and resources about careers in public power can be found in the Workforce section and current public power job postings are available on the job board. Job opportunities at APPA are posted on the About the American Public Power Association page.