Benefits of Public Power
Central Lincoln is a People’s Utility District, which is a type of special district similar to a school district or a fire district. A People’s Utility District, or PUD, is a body of local government that provides essential utility services within a specified area. They are granted authority by the Oregon Constitution, Article XI, Section 12, and further defined by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 261. PUDs are formed by a vote of the people who live within the district, and are directed, managed and operated locally.
Central Lincoln is locally owned and operated – and voters within the service territory select a five-member Board of Directors that sets rates and policies for the utility.
As a community-owned utility, Central Lincoln is part of a public power family, including electric cooperatives and municipal utilities.
Differences Between Community-Owned & Investor-Owned Utilities
Community-owned utilities, like Central Lincoln:
- Not For Profit. Community-owned utilities are not-for-profit entities that exist to provide essential services like electricity to their customers.
- Cost-Based Rates. Most community-owned utilities charge cost-based rates. They only raise rates when necessary to provide safe and reliable service for customers.
- Local Control. Locally elected boards or commissions govern community-owned utilities. Constituents elect boards to set rates and policies. This is called “local control,” giving customers a voice in their utility’s operation.
Investor-owned utilities, like Pacific Gas & Electric:
- For Profit. Investor-owned utilities are for-profit corporations that profit from shareholders by providing essential services like electricity.
- Profit-Based Rates. Investor-owned utilities build a profit margin for shareholders into their rates. This is one reason that the rates charged by investor-owned utilities are often higher.
- Shareholder & Public Utility Commission (PUC) Control. Private boards of directors govern investor-owned utilities. The PUC sets their rates, and the shareholders elect directors.
Public Power Facts
- The Northwest has about 120 publicly owned utilities, serving about half of the population.
- There are three types of public power utilities: municipal systems, which are governed by the cities they serve; private cooperatives, non-profit corporations governed by their members; and PUDs, special districts formed by a vote of the people they serve.
- Nine of the ten lowest-cost utilities in Oregon are public utilities.
- In Oregon, PUDs are governed by a five-member Board of Directors that is elected by the voters in the PUD’s service area. The Board of Directors sets rates based on the cost of providing service. BPA generally provides the PUD’s power supply at rates that are less than any of Oregon’s private utility rates. The PUD passes these lower rates on to customers. The Board is also responsible for hiring professional managers and staff to operate the utility.
- The Board of Directors is elected to represent the local community and holds regular meetings which are open to the public. PUD customers can also vote to authorize debt (bond sales) to finance the purchase or modification of the district’s facilities.