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Thread: Starting municipal electric

  1. #1

    Starting municipal electric

    How does a City go about deregulating (may not be the right word) the electric, so that they may start a municipal electric program? We would be very interested in how this happens, especially at the beginning stages. It seems like any nearby cities that offer municipal electric and the commensurate lower rates have better odds of attracting a variety of businesses and may be a deal-maker. This incentive often sways developers toward a city and keeps residents happy. Any suggestions on where to begin - planning stages - would be helpful.

  2. #2
    Apr 2005
    Section 14-12-7, 3rd PM
    Feel lucky your not in Illinois
    Towns around here that have their own power supply are in much better shape then those who use utility companies. But I don't see how a town could financially start from scratch. The cost of the infrastructure would be huge.

    Are you thinking of the city owning the infrastructure and adding an electric department to the PWD? or leasing it from the utility company and the city only acting as a broker for the actual electricity?

  3. #3
    Aug 2005
    Funky Town, CO.
    A couple of years ago the City of Boulder, Colorado started looking into taking over their electric utility from the investor owned utility (IOU). I have not heard much about it lately so I am not sure of the current status or if they even went as far as a real feasibility study.

    Having onced worked for a consumer owned utility I was surprised that they would want to take over the system. It could require a whole new engineering division and specially trained workers to maintain the system and to purchase power from the grid. The start-up costs (purchasing the infrastructure, trucks, equipment, tools, & hiring new employees) would seem to be very high. You could go with a consulting engineering firm and hire private contractors to reduce initial sunk costs. A public electrical utility would also require some specialize legal counsel to deal with state regulation which is an additional cost but could be done on a contract basis too.

    A town may also loose some tax revenue from converting private property into public property. Also, what type of shape is the current distribution system? Many IOUs have cut maintenance costs to improve profits. Wood poles last about 50 years before they have to be replaced. Wire lasts longer if the load does not exceed its design capacity. The system may need some major investments just to keep it working. Something to think about.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
    Nov 2002
    Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve
    I'd start by reading the resources available at the American Public Power Association website. Check out the "About Public Power" pull-down menu.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
    Feb 2002
    We have had our own utilities since 1891, and the board of public utilities (technically a dept of the City) has abour 48 employees. They provide all basic utilities (water, sewer) but also electric, cable tv, internet, and long distance. I can PM you with the contact person for detailed information.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Nov 2006
    Jamestown, New York
    Jamestown, NY has public electric power since the 1890s as well, and has extended it to some of its suburbs in years past, namely the Town of Ellicott which includes the Village of Falconer and the West Ellicott area. It now also includes water and garbage. The website is : Board of Public Utilities.

    The nearby village of Lakewood is considering also going with public power. The issue is the cost of buying out the local power company.

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
    Jul 1998
    On the Mother River
    You have to hire a consultant to do a feasibility study. In Iowa, a bunch of cities with the same goal formed a consortium that hired the consultant since many of the issues are the same. I believe then, in Iowa at least, there needs to be a ballot measure. Most of those failed due to intense lobbying by the big utilities.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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