Approximately 35 million Americans receive electricity from more than 2,000 community-owned or public power utilities operated by municipalities, counties, states, or other public bodies. Public power utilities can be found in every state except Hawaii, and Nebraska is 100% public power.
There are over 70 public power cities and towns located throughout North Carolina, including Rocky Mount, Wilson, High Point, New Bern, Monroe, Waynesville, Washington, Apex, Clayton, Lumberton, Newton, Morganton, and Statesville. Fayetteville's Public Works Commission is the largest public power utility in the state providing electric service to more than 70,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers. Bostic is the state's smallest public power provider, serving just over 200 customers.
Public power systems are owned and operated by the communities they serve. They are also deeply rooted in the history of the United States and are an expression of the American ideal of neighbor helping neighbor - local people working together to meet local needs. Like community schools, parks, hospitals, and water, sewer, police and fire departments, public power systems are locally created institutions that address a basic community need: they provide electricity - an essential public service and tackle a variety of local issues by involving the community in the decision-making processes.
In 2007, Wake Forest Power was one of 48 public power utilities to earn Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) recognition from the American Public Power Association for providing consumers with the highest degree of reliable and safe electric service.
Public power means local control
Like all electric utilities, public power systems must meet a variety of federal and state mandates. Yet, community ownership confers enormous benefits on citizens of public power communities because it provides wide latitude to make local decisions that best suit our local needs and values. Every city and town has its own distinctive characteristics, including natural resources, geography and climate, economic and social opportunities and challenges, diversity of citizenry, and community spirit. These local characteristics must be taken into account when decisions are made about electric rates and services, generating fuels, clean air and water, and other issues that affect the entire community.
Public power helps the local economy grow
Public power stimulates economic prosperity, translating into better living conditions for families and the entire community.
Public power has the ability as a local government arm to provide streamlined, "one-stop" customer services that encourage existing business customers to maintain and expand their operations and attract new businesses. Strong stable employers mean strong, stable jobs for local citizens. Low electric rates also hold down consumer costs, allowing public power customers to spend more money on other goods and services. This further stimulates the local economy.
Public power means not-for-profit
While public power utilities are "not-for-profit" organizations, that does not mean that they are not entrepreneurial, or that they do not make major economic contributions to their communities.
Public power systems on average return to state and local governments in-lieu-of-tax payments and other contributions that are equivalent to state and local taxes paid by private power companies. In addition, unlike their private power company counterparts, public power systems serve only one constituency: their customers. They do not divide their loyalties between service customers and trying to make higher profits for stockholders.
These are just a few of the benefits of living in a public power community. As a public power utility, Wake Forest's electric system has many other distinct characteristics that help our customers and community. These include:
Outstanding local customer service
Responsiveness to customer concerns - every citizen is an owner with a direct say in policies
Emphasis on long-term community goals
Quick response from crews who live in the community
Not-for-profit status - lower costs and no split allegiance between customers and stockholders
Revenues stay in community
Utility purchases from local establishments, including use of local financial institutions
Economic development - not-for-profit electricity attracts and keeps businesses
Access to tax-exempt financing for capital projects
Cash flow of the utility, which may be channeled through local government treasury
Opportunity for efficiency through integrated utility operations (e.g., operation with electric, sanitation, etc.)
Improved local government efficiency through sharing of personnel, equipment and supplies
Local management and operations bring added community leadership for innovation and development
Recognized commitment to conservation, safety and the environment
Local control over special programs (energy conservation, rate relief for certain customer classes, etc.)
Local control over the electric distribution system aesthetics and design
Local control that allows matching local resources to local needs
No economic bias toward high cost, capital intensive techniques or technologies
Innovative techniques and technology to meet energy needs
Primary mission of providing least-cost, reliable service over maximizing profit