Community Engagement

Where there's talk of public power

Creating a new utility or changing a utility’s ownership model doesn’t happen very often in the U.S. in this day and age, but many communities explore the idea of forming a public power utility – also called municipalization – on a regular basis. Here’s a look at communities who are currently or have recently explored the public power option and what inspired them to take a look at local ownership.

Map highlighting several areas with municipalization activity

Location: Maine

Status: Exploring the option

Why the community wants public power: Higher reliability and accountability, lower rates, create local jobs, in-source revenue

The Maine legislature approved a measure to develop a task force to explore creating a statewide power authority in July 2020.

Location: New York, NY

Status: Exploring the option

Why the community wants public power: Increased transparency and accountability, improved efficiency and reliability, faster transition to renewable energy, and lower rates

The Public Advocate for the City of New York released a plan in August 2020 detailing possible paths to municipalization.

Location: Chicago, Ill.

Status: No further exploration

Why the community wants public power: Distrust of incumbent investor-owned utility

A feasibility study found that the cost of municipalization for the city and its citizens would be too high, but the city council is referring to study findings in renegotiating its franchise agreement with the IOU.

Location: Decorah, Iowa

Status: Exploring the option

Why the community wants public power: Affordability, community investment

The City Council voted to create a task force in December 2020 to examine whether to update or revisit a feasibility study from 2017, conduct a new study, or move ahead with a second voter referendum. A referendum to municipalize in 2018 fell short by only three votes.

Location: Boulder, Colo.

Status: Suspended

Why the community wants public power: Desire for cleaner power, local decision-making over generation mix

After a decade-long push for municipalization, in November 2020 Boulder voters approved the city to renew an agreement with Xcel Energy. The agreement allows for the city to resume efforts if the IOU fails to meet certain targets in the coming years.

Location: Pueblo, Colo.

Status: Did not pass a ballot measure in May 2020.

Why public power: A feasibility study showed that Pueblo residents could see 10-18% savings with public power. Other supporting community members hoped a city-owned utility would enact fairer utility shutoff policies.

Leading up to the vote, the opposition outspent municipalization advocates 50:1.

Location: San Diego, Calif.

Status: In discussion

Why public power: Lower rates, a focus on equity

The city council extended the current franchise agreement by 6 months, through June 2021, as it continues to explore the best options for the city.

Location: San Jose, Calif.

Status: Exploring the option

Why public power: Increased reliability, such as through microgrid development, and local decision-making

The mayor commissioned a feasibility study following the public safety power shutoffs the city faced in the 2019.

Location: San Francisco, Calif.

Status: Exploring the option

Why public power: More stable rates, local control over energy choices

IOU rejected city’s offer of $2.5 billion in 2019

Download the graphic