From time to time, outside entities may approach a public power community with a buyout offer for the electric utility, or the city might want a say in the utility’s future ownership options. The idea might stem from fiscal pressures on local government, the expansion of traditional competitors, new market entrants or other reasons.
The best defense against a buyout attempt is a well-run utility and customer-owners who understand the value of public power ownership.
A smooth operation
Run your utility efficiently, remain accountable to customers, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and be on the alert for warning signs of a potential sellout before it comes. Act to address any problems at your utility and have a strong communication plan to educate and engage your community on core public power benefits.
Typically, these benefits include community ownership, competitive rates, high reliability, local control, responsive customer service, and accountability to the community. The relative importance of each of these benefits will vary from utility to utility and will likely evolve over time to meet changing needs. Be sure to regularly re-evaluate your utility’s strategies to ensure they align with your community’s needs and preferences.
10 keys to success
Public power utilities must:
- Provide superior customer service
- Deliver value though power supply management
- Focus on distribution performance and opportunity
- Keep the “public” in public power by promoting public power’s role in the community
- Optimize community infrastructure
- Lead in environmental stewardship and compliance
- Build consensus through democratic governance
- Promote human resource excellence
- Engage policymakers through legislative education and advocacy
- Invest in your technology future
Know and communicate your value
The value of your utility is much more than the price tag attached to your poles and wires. Your true value is in the cumulative benefits your utility brings your community, including:
- Financial support for local government
- In-kind contributions
- Savings through more efficient municipal operations
- Lower rates
- Local employment
- Support of local businesses
- Community sponsorships and engagement
- Energy efficiency and customer programs
- Economic development
- Local control
- Reliable service
- Customer service
- Community improvements
It’s not enough for you to know the full value your utility brings to the community. Your board members and city leaders, employees, residential and commercial customers, and local media need to know as well. Ensuring your stakeholders know the value of your utility can help prevent a sellout/takeover attempt from emerging and can help build the goodwill you will need to defend your utility if the situation arises.
Communicating the value of your utility must be an ongoing effort. There is turnover in your stakeholder groups, and many other issues compete for your audience’s attention. You need to make the information easy to understand and accessible to them — and available when they are ready to hear it.
For help in addressing a potential sellout and to get an updated copy of The Future of Your Utility: Positioning Your Community to Succeed in a Sellout Evaluation, contact us at [email protected]