Public utility commissions (PUCs) are state agencies that regulate electric, gas, telecommunications, water and waste water utilities. In most states a single agency will regulate these industries. However, in some states these functions are split between more than one agency. PUC Commissioners are typically appointed by the governor and generally serve 4 to 6 year terms, although in approximately 25% of the states commissioners are elected.
Their responsibilities include setting rates and tariffs, licensing utilities, overseeing service quality, investigating complaints, and ensuring that utilities comply with the law. In addition to regulating utilities, some PUCs also have a role in promoting energy efficiency or renewable energy.
Utility regulation is primarily economic in nature and regulators are essentially charged with ensuring that utilities provide reasonable, adequate and efficient service to their customers. Simultaneously, regulators must provide utilities with a reasonable opportunity to recover the costs they incur in providing their services, including a fair rate of return to investors.
Public utility commissions can offer interesting careers opportunities for those interested in working in the utilities sector. Jobs can range from attorneys and engineers to accountants and customer service representatives.