We Are Community Powered

More than 2,000 cities and towns in the United States light up their homes, businesses and streets with “public power” – electricity that comes from a community-owned and operated utility.

Public power utilities are like our public schools and libraries: a division of local government, owned by the community, run by boards of local officials accountable to the citizens. Most public power utilities are owned by cities and towns, but many are owned by counties, public utility districts and even states.

While each public power utility is different, reflecting its hometown characteristics and values, all have a common purpose: providing customers in the community with safe, reliable, not-for-profit electricity at a reasonable price while protecting the environment.

Public power today is an important contemporary American institution. From small towns to big cities, wherever public power exists, it is an expression of the American ideal of local people working together to meet local needs. It is a manifestation of local control.

More than 2,000 community-owned electric utilities server more than 48 million people.

Officially designated as the Fort Clara Power Station, this 3.7 million dollar addition to Santa Clara’s power resources will enable the city to distribute more power to residents, and it will position them for greater power advantages as growth expands. Principally, the new power generation system will make it possible for the city to assure adequate power during peak times of consumption and in case of a power emergency. It also will minimize the need for expensive power purchases on the open market and provide opportunity for generating power for market sales.

The 10,800 square foot power station will begin operation with two two-mega-watt generators and the space to increase that number to six two-mega-watt generators as the need arises. The generators will be powered by natural gas, keeping costs down and emissions at low levels.

The radial arm transmission design of the transmission system the generators are connected to provides redundancy and increases reliability of power for users.

The power station is financed with a 20-year term tax-exempt bond.

The facility has the capability of housing four more generators.

Green Energy

Santa Clara City encourages the use of Renewable Resources. With the growing interest of Solar Panels in our community, City Staff and City Council members have been continuously working to find a policy to support those interested in installing clean energy solutions. Together, we have come up with a policy that will benefit solar customers, keep costs from increasing for those customers who do not have solar and allow the City to maintain and upkeep our current infrastructure.

Solar Energy is a great asset and we encourage residents to get educated and explore their options for clean energy. Our Power Department is always reviewing and updating power rates and policies. We want to keep all our residents happy. We want to provide energy to all our residents at an affordable rate.

Click here to go to our Solar section.

Myths & Facts about Public Power

Myth #1

Myth: Municipalization is a slippery slope to government running other businesses.

Fact: Provision of electricity is an essential service that has characteristics of a monopoly, more like a water or wastewater utility than a commercial or industrial enterprise. It is a long accepted principle that government entities may provide such essentials services to serve the public welfare.

Because of its monopolist nature, electric distribution service is regulated. Private utilities are not simply businesses that charge whatever they choose. Their rates are regulated by state public utility commissions that determine which costs can be recovered from ratepayers and that set the allowed rates of return.

Public power utilities’ rates are also regulated, in some states by the state commission, but generally through oversight of the local governing bodies or boards. Their rates are designed to cover the cost of service.

Public power utilities are also not in business to make profit-they provide an essential service on a not-for-profit basis, which in turn means lower rates. In contrast, investor owned utilities charge rates that include a profit factor, that is, the cost to provide their shareholders with a return on equity.

Myth #2

Myth: Public power means more bureaucracy and less protection for consumers.

Fact: With the increase in mergers and consolidations among private utilities, public power utilities actually provide more protection to consumers. Public power utilities are much smaller, leaner and more efficient than large investor-owned electric utilities. Citizens direct the activities of the public power utility through the utilities governing board, which is made up of elected or appointed officials. In addition, many public power utilities appoint citizen panels to advise them on services, reliability, rates and other issues. Questions are answered and decisions are made publicly. Citizens have access to all meetings and records and, if they disapprove, they can vote the elected officials out of office.

Myth #3

Myth: Public power utilities can’t operate as efficiently as larger utilities.

Fact: Electricity distribution, as opposed to large scale generation and high-voltage transmission is local. Public power utilities keep costs down through local scrutiny of operations. With their local presence, they are more responsive to customers’ needs. They use strategic partnerships and joint action with other public power agencies to obtain the advantages of size in power supply activities without taking on the disadvantages of merging into larger, remote, bureaucratic institutions. Municipal utilities can also create efficiencies for their communities in billing, metering, 24-hour emergency call centers, and other operations when they provide more than just electric services to homes and businesses.