Successful Public Power Campaigns - Metro Justice

Successful Public Power Campaigns

While no two are the same, U.S. communities that have voted to take back control have consistently saved money, improved service, and accelerated their pace towards clean energy independence.


Massena, NY: Rates down 25% on day one – even while paying off the acquisition 

In 1981, the northern border town of Massena, New York purchased their local grid, forcing out Niagara Mohawk. Opposition was fierce, but “we saw it through,” said Andrew McMahon, the new utility’s superintendent. On day one, rates went down by 25% – even while they paid off the acquisition and legal costs! Today, their union workers deliver some of the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable power in the region. Ernie LaBaff, a 90-year-old labor leader who opposed the 1981 effort, now wishes he still lived there. He says "you can’t beat what they’re getting in Massena!”


Emerald People’s Utility District, OR: low rates, improved service 

EPUD was approved by voters in 1978, and began providing electricity service in 1983. The switchover went smoothly and EPUD now serves 22,000 customers at an average retail price of less than ten cents per kWh, with better service reliability than under the previous, private utility.


Winter Park, FL: “We proved to them the little guys can do it" - Jerry Warren, Utility Director

Despite the scare tactics used against them in 2003, Winter Park, Florida voted to get rid of Progress Energy. They have since purchased the grid, re-engineered it to dispatch locally, undergrounded their lines to prevent outages even amid hurricanes, paid off the initial acquisition costs, and still reduced rates relative to their neighbors.


Long Island, NY: Rates Dropped 20% on Day One 

Long Island, New York did the same in 1998. Their deal, negotiated by a Republican governor to win the support of the outgoing for-profit utility, included a big extra challenge: ratepayers had to pick up the tab for a dead nuclear power plant. Yet even with this massive extra cost, the new utility (LIPA) reduced rates by 20% on day one. Since then, LIPA has almost paid off its debts, and kept rates lower than the utilities next door. And after Superstorm Sandy, LIPA received nearly a billion dollars in federal assistance. This is an expense any investor-owned utility would have had to pass on to customers.


Kauai Island Electric Cooperative, 2002: lower rates, more renewables

In the 1990s and before, the island of Kauai was served by a private utility, Kauai Electric. Kauai had the highest electricity prices of the four major islands of Hawaii. In 2002, the Kauai Island Electric Cooperative was formed, replacing Kauai Electric. Today, member-owned KIUC  has lower rates than the private utilities on the other islands, and has achieved that in part by increased reliance on renewable energy, which makes up 60% of its energy portfolio.


Boulder, CO: Moving Mountains to Get An Entire State to Renewables 

When Boulder, CO began working to take back its power from Xcel, over 95% of Xcel's power came from coal, oil and natural gas. Under pressure from Boulder’s vote in favor of public power, Xcel first fought back, but then agreed to major concessions: Xcel will help Boulder achieve 100% clean energy by 2030. Equally important, Xcel will reduce its overall, 2005 statewide carbon emissions by 80% by 2030! The city also retains the right to terminate the Xcel franchise, and the agreement even contains conditions to make this easier. 


Jefferson County, WA: First Clean Energy, Next Low-Cost Broadband 

Jefferson County, Washington, a rural and forested county, also went forward with public power. They have since then reduced rates, created more well-paying jobs, and invested in more clean energy and a more resilient grid. In addition, they are now offering low-cost, gig-speed internet to all residents. 


Nebraska: Statewide Reforms Lead to Cheapest, Most Reliable Energy in U.S. 

Nebraska abolished for-profit monopoly utilities in the 1940s. Today, despite frequent tornadoes, Nebraska has the cheapest power and the fewest outages. It is also now the only “red” state with a net zero clean energy goal – a goal set not by legislators, but by the elected boards of the public power utilities. 

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