Public Power Utility: What Does it Mean?
Last week, I spent four days in New Orleans attending the American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Customer Connections Conference. The agenda was filled with engaging speaker sessions and roundtable discussions geared toward those working in customer service, energy efficiency and communications. Don’t worry, I squeezed in some jambalaya in between.
Having worked in marketing and communications for several years, I found myself in familiar territory discussing social media strategy, communications tools and community engagement. However, with only three months of Santee Cooper employment under my belt, this whole realm of public power was new to me, and I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling a little lost.
APPA is, “the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide,” and Santee Cooper is one of the association’s 1,400 members. Representing public power before the federal government, the APPA essentially serves as an advocate for the more than 49 million people that public power utilities serve nationally.
Santee Cooper is one of 23 public power entities in South Carolina and the state’s largest. In order to be considered a public power utility, there are a few qualifiers needed. Public power utilities must be not for profit, owned by a town, city or state, and locally governed.
As a whole, public power utilities have lower rates and offer more reliable electric service than other types of electric utilities. South Carolina, for example, has four large utilities, including Santee Cooper, that generate, transmit and distribute electricity in the state. The average bill for our typical residential customer (using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month) is the lowest among the four. And we’re the most reliable source of electricity among large electric utilities in South Carolina.
What else makes public power utilities unique? Public power supports strong local economies and they care about the community. According to APPA, “Public power utilities generate more than $58 billion in annual revenue and invest more than $2 billion annually directly back into the community.”
It was a humbling experience to hear from and meet so many people who are as committed and passionate about working for public power as we are at Santee Cooper. We are here to serve you, our customers, and as our mission statement says, “to improve the quality of life of all South Carolinians.” To learn more about APPA and public power in general, visit publicpower.org.