There are 34 municipal electric utilities in Florida. These communities believe that public power is the best choice for their communities and citizens. Here are a few of the reasons why:
A municipal utility is owned by the city it serves. It exists to provide a public service to the residents and businesses of the community. Service — rather than profit — is the utility’s mission.
Local Control and Regulation
The rates and services of a municipal utility are governed by the city itself, either through the city commission or an appointed or elected utility authority. This is the most responsive and accessible form of regulation. The utility is governed by residents of the community who are customers of the utility and are thoroughly familiar with its operations and services. If a customer has a complaint, he or she doesn’t have to take it to a faceless agency in Tallahassee. The customer can discuss the problem locally, with another member of the community, and be assured that the problem will be addressed.
The Public Interest
A municipal utility is operated in the public interest, for the benefit of the residents of the city — not for the benefit of stockholders who live miles away and may have little interest in the community. In private utility ownership, there is a tension between the interests of the customers and the interests of the stockholders — their interests are not always the same, and they may be in conflict. This disparity of interests has given rise to a complex system of regulation of private utilities. This extensive level of regulation is unnecessary when the utility is publicly owned and operated for the benefit of the community it serves.
Keeping Dollars in the Community
Here are some of the ways a municipal utility helps to maintain a sound local economy:
• Local ownership means that customers’ energy dollars stay in the community — creating jobs and supporting the local economy.
• Municipal utilities serve as an engine for economic development. Local flexibility and quality service offered by municipal utilities are a major advantage for the community in attracting and retaining commercial and industrial customers.
• Municipal utilities make significant payments-in-lieu-of-taxes to the city. These payments are similar, and often much greater to the tax payments that would be made by a private utility.
• On average, municipal utility rates are competitive with those of other utilities. Competitive rates means more dollars are available to spend on other goods and services, which boosts the local economy.
Decisions about the operation of a municipal utility are made locally, by members of the community, at open, public meetings. Because all decisions are made locally, a municipal utility is uniquely able to respond to the community’s needs, build on the community’s strengths, and reflect and advance the community’s values.