Should utilities be owned by the public?

There are plenty of nonprofit cooperatives and municipal-run utilities that are incentivized to mitigate costs and improve services.

Utilities such as DTE Energy in Michigan and PG&E in California have a lot of — power — when it comes to services we all rely on.

But that is not the only model out there. There are plenty of nonprofit cooperatives and municipal-run utilities that are incentivized to mitigate costs and improve services.

In fact, this is how rural communities came to get electricity as part of the New Deal. They got help from the federal government to establish their own energy services in the form of cooperatives that were run by people who lived in the communities from which they delivered energy.

“We’re seeing people banding together and showing that there is this alternative path and that we can govern our own utilities.” — Johanna Bozuwa, Climate and Community Project

This old idea is once again gaining traction today in other places around the country. That’s true even in urban places like Highland Park, where they are working to control their own electrical energy services. Similar cooperatives in Tennessee have also launched their own broadband projects.


Listen: A look at what a different utility model could look like in the future.

 


Guest

Johanna Bozuwa is the executive director of the Climate and Community Project think tank. She wrote a piece in The Hill titled, “COVID-19 makes clear energy and water are public goods.”

Bozuwa says these areas are getting a second look in part because of the pandemic.

“It was really clear the experience that people were having on the ground with people being shut off,” Bozuwa says. “We’re seeing people banding together and showing that there is this alternative path and that we can govern our own utilities.”

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