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Public Power Equals Local Control

October 04, 2021

Illustration showing community owned power

Every year, more than 2,000 community-owned utilities - like the Eugene Water & Electric Board - across the nation observe Public Power Week during the first full week of October. The week-long event is a celebration of these not-for-profit electric utilities that serve the power needs of 49 million Americans.

This week, Oct. 3-9, we honor our 110-year history of serving the Eugene community with reliable, affordable and safe electric services.  There are three types of utilities: public power, rural electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities.

Unlike for-profit utilities who serve their investors, EWEB and other public power providers are community-owned and do not operate to earn a profit or benefit stockholders. Our prices are based on the costs to serve our community with safe, reliable water and electricity.

Check out this video on the benefits of community-owned power.

EWEB, owned by the citizens of Eugene did not increase electric prices in 2021, marking the fifth year in a row of no price increase for customers. That's not to say prices won't go up next year or in future years, rather, it is a testament to the hard work we do to keep prices affordable, and our elected commissioners and staff are dedicated to being good stewards of our customers' funds.

We are able to provide reliable electricity at affordable prices while still investing in our infrastructure, offering energy efficiency incentives, bill assistance programs for limited-income customers, and significant support for local school districts through grants. Last year, EWEB provided more than $1.5 million in bill assistance to more than 5,000 customers - many of whom suffered pandemic-related job losses.

All of this is made possible because EWEB is governed by five elected commissioners who live and work here in the community. Commissioners, who volunteer and are not paid, are directly responsible to Eugene voters. In fact, commissioners hold a public meeting the first Tuesday of each month, where any member of the public can directly speak to their elected representatives about utility business. Those served by investor-owned utilities do not have that option.

That local control has not only kept pricing affordable, but it also plays the decisive role in past, present and future decisions, policies and priorities.

Reflecting the community's strong ethic to protect the environment, our power portfolio is 90% renewable and carbon-free. Our investments in renewable energy - hydro, wind, biomass and small-scale solar have served our customers well, and will continue to do so for decades to come.

In 2019, we received a new 40-year federal operating license for our largest utility owned generation source, the Carmen-Smith Project on the upper McKenzie River. That new license triggered a series of investments that will upgrade the powerhouse and substation, rebuilding the fish spawning channel along with three campgrounds and other recreational, environmental and habitat improvements. We anticipate we invest more than $116 million over the next several years to maintain this carbon-free renewable generating facility.

EWEB was one of the first utilities in the Pacific Northwest to consider its watershed part of its drinking water infrastructure, and our significant investments to protect the McKenzie River over the past 100 years will benefit present and future generations.

Following containment of the Holiday Farm Fire in 2020, EWEB staff were among the first on the ground to stabilize the charred banks of the McKenzie. Partnering with other local groups dedicated to protecting the river and its floodplains we worked with landowners to keep toxic ash and other hazardous materials from entering the McKenzie.

The partnership has since replanted 90 riparian properties with 210,000 native trees and shrubs to begin restoring McKenzie River riparian zones.

Our strong commitment to our community can also be seen in how our employees - the people behind public power - work hard to provide the best customer service every day. These individuals from many departments including human resources, administration, accounting and finance, community relations, field crews, and engineering and operations, come together and serve our neighbors and the community in which we live.

And we are here, ready to respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in service to more than 200,000 people in Eugene, parts of east Springfield and the McKenzie River Valley.

Protecting our drinking water

Our commitment to the environment

Our education grant program

EWEB's history