Public Power Governance Certificate Program

Courses to help utility governing board members understand the complex industry issues that affect their utility, as well as their personal duties, responsibilities, and obligations as policymakers.

Download the Governance Resources Brochure.

Program Description

Developed to meet the unique needs of public power governing board members, there’s no better way to ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to be successful than by enrolling them in the APPA Public Power Governance Certificate Program. Participants must complete the required coursework within three years and then pass an online exam, in order to receive their certificate.

Who Should Attend

This program is designed for newly elected or appointed utility policymakers, city council and utility board members, though experienced policy officials will also benefit from these educational opportunities.

Key Areas of Importance for Public Power Governance

This program focuses on the five key components of effective public utility governance outlined below. The required curriculum is designed to help policymakers build knowledge and skills within those areas to effectively govern their organizations through the evolutionary years ahead.

1. Electric Utility Industry Overview
Power supply and delivery are highly technical and complex issues. It is important for public power managers and policymakers to have a fundamental understanding of the components of an electric system and how they impact the utility’s budget and end-use consumers. Through the industry overview coursework, participants will gain a broad, non-technical overview of how the components of an electric system function together to provide reliable and environmentally sustainable service to customers.

2. Duties, Responsibilities and Legal Obligations
When elected or appointed to a public power board or city council, new governing board members often find little specific information on their duties and responsibilities nor a formal description of their job requirements. Within the utility governance portion of the program, participants will learn about the public power business model; examine the legal and fiduciary duties incumbent upon public power policymakers; the policy responsibilities of governing boards, and how they differ from management; and additional responsibilities including creating a constructive board/management relationship, assuring an effective CEO, monitoring the organization’s performance, and determining the effectiveness of the governing body itself.

3. Performance Monitoring and Accountability
The public power governing body’s primary fiduciary duty is to represent the interests of the utility’s customer-owners by assuring the organization’s long-term viability. Policymakers do this by providing appropriate direction and assuring the utility is using resources and operating efficiently and effectively. Included in this training are sessions where participants will learn the steps that the board and management should take in developing an effective process for monitoring utility performance to assure it is delivering the highest value to customers.

4. Strategic Planning
Once legal and fiduciary duties are met, among the most important aspects of utility governance is establishing the mission/vision for the organization and setting the utility’s direction, usually through the strategic planning process. Through the curriculum, participants will examine a comprehensive process through which the utility can document current policies and procedures, identify operational strengths and weaknesses, plan for new programs to meet the changing needs of the community and explain the board and/or council’s roles in that process.

5. Utility Financial Operations
Utilities are under pressure to minimize rate impacts on customers while maintaining the financial health of the organization. The certificate program also includes financial planning components, to ensure participants understand key financial targets to help secure the long-term financial stability of the utility, discover methods to assess the current financial condition of the utility, and learn about ways to identify potential areas of cost reductions or improvements while minimizing potential rate changes on customers.

Program Requirements

To earn the Public Power Governance Certificate, participants must complete the following requirements within two years:

Complete the required coursework

Coursework can be taken entirely online, through live, in-person training or a combination of the two.

Choose one of the two options or contact us to create your own schedule. 

Pass an online exam

The exam, made up of multiple choice questions, will assess the participant’s comprehension of the required curriculum.


The price includes the registration fees for the coursework detailed within each option, cost of study material and exam grading.

  • Members: $1,000

  • Nonmembers: $2,000

Coursework Completion Options

Choose one of the two options below:

Option 1: Online

  • Complete the Electric Utility 101 webinar series (5 webinars)

  • Complete the Utility Governance webinar series (5 webinars)

Option 2: In-Person Training

Attend the following National Pre-Conference seminars (New Orleans, Louisiana)Note: this option takes two years to complete.*

  • Electric Utility Industry Overview and Challenges June 16 (full day)*

  • Follow the Money: Making Sound Financial Decisions June 16 (morning)

  • Strategic Rate Design: Trends and Case Studies June 16 (afternoon)

  • Board Responsibilities: Excellence in Governance June 17 (morning)

  • Developing Policies that Demonstrate Effective Board Leadership June 17 (afternoon)

*The Electric Utility 101 Webinar Series can be taken in place of the full-day Electric Utility Industry Overview seminar. Webinars are recorded, in case you are not able to participate on the scheduled date

Let Us Come To You!
We can bring our courses to your location at any time—a convenient and cost-effective option for groups of eight or more. This format also allows you to customize course content to address the specific goals that are important to your organization.

Pool Your Resources
Partner with neighboring public power utilities, state and regional associations, or joint action agencies to bring the training to your area. This is a great way to share costs and to secure a location that is within driving distance (ideal for utilities facing strict travel guidelines or joint action agencies looking to add services to their members).

Contact our Education Department, at 202-467-2919 or [email protected]