The term “utilities” can refer to two things: the organization that provides a crucial infrastructural service, or the service itself. For example, electricity, natural gas, sewage, and water are all utilities, just as an electric company, natural gas company, sewage management company, and water company are utilities. Such companies are the subjects of many controversial debates relating to utility regulation and public control.
Municipal utilities are publicly owned (POU/POUs), cooperative utilities (coops; co-ops) are owned by the consumers served by the utilities, and private utilities are investor-owned (IOU/IOUs). Currently, the trend towards the deregulation, liberalization, and privatization of public utilities is on the rise, though the networks to get such utilities to the public have stayed monopolistic in structure through utility districts.
Government monopolies on utilities, for example, can be beneficial to the public when a private company’s control of such utilities is detrimental to the public’s needs. Deregulation, however, has been the dominant utility industry trend in which previously government-run utility services have been privatized. Deregulation can also refer to greater eligibility for participation in utility industry services, such as power generation operations among independent power producers (IPPs) rather than just companies providing traditional electrical utility services. Many who are in favor of private control of utilities cite a few key advantages, such as system expansions, market stabilization, and increased competition between providers, which results in better deals for consumers.