Who Is The Public Utilities Commission?
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, or the PUC, plays a vital role in ensuring that Minnesotans have safe, reliable, and affordable electric, gas and landline telephone utility services. The PUC is made up of five commissioners who are appointed by the Governor and approved by the Minnesota Senate. Commissioners come from a wide variety of political, geographic, and professional backgrounds, and bring a blend of different perspectives to their decisions.
What Does the PUC Regulate?
Commissioners regulate by reviewing a formal, public record, and applying the law. The PUC’s decisions balance the need for safe and reliable utility service with ensuring the reasonable cost of providing that service. The Commission works within a “regulatory compact.”
The regulatory compact is an agreement, made up of several Minnesota laws, that says utilities should be allowed to recover the cost of the reasonable investments that are needed to provide service. This means utilities can get paid back for things like building landline telephone poles, wind turbines, or hiring frontline utility workers. State law also allows utilities to earn a return on their investments. These costs are what make up your rates.
The PUC sets the rates and terms of service for eight major investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities and municipal or cooperative utilities whose members have decided to have their rates regulated.
The PUC also regulates service quality for local landline telephone service but does not normally set the rates. Additionally, the PUC reviews requests by utilities and non-utilities that want to build large energy infrastructure projects like transmission lines, power plants, solar farms, wind farms and pipelines.
Watch a video about how the PUC regulates!
While not regulated by the PUC, Minnesotans might make agreements with a third party for utility-related services, like a contractor who will install solar panels or a developer who wants to use land for solar or wind farms. While the PUC does not regulate these third parties, the PUC's Consumer Affairs Office may be able to help mediate some problems.
Cell phone service is not under PUC authority, cellular telephone service is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission. Also, under state law, the primary oversight for cooperative and municipal utilities is from their members and elected or appointed leadership.
If you are having issues with your cooperative or municipal utility, you should first contact them directly. If you are not able to resolve the issues, you can file a complaint with the PUC by contacting our Consumer Affairs Office
Types of Regulatory Decisions and PUC Services
Energy Generation and Connectivity When large energy infrastructure is proposed, the PUC reviews and approves / denies where new wind turbines, transmission lines, solar farms, and other types of infrastructure may be located and ensuring their impacts to humans and the environment are minimized.
Planning for the Future The PUC also reviews utilities’ long-term plans about the type of generation they will use to provide electricity, their operating costs, and determines whether large electric infrastructure is needed, and where it will be located to minimize the negative impacts on humans and the environment.
Rates, Services, and Programs The PUC sets the rates and terms of service for investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities and municipal or cooperative utilities whose members have decided to have their rates regulated. The PUC reviews utilities’ proposals for customer programs for things like electric vehicles and community solar gardens.
Getting Help If you are having a problem with your utility service or need help figuring out how to afford your bill, you can contact the PUC’s Consumer Affairs Office. Depending on the situation, the PUC might be able to help. The PUC also helps operate several important programs that can help people who need help paying their bills.
*PUC regulation addresses many issues that are important to Minnesotans. If you have questions about a specific project, please contact the Consumer Affairs Office.
Ask for Help
The PUC might be able to help if you are having problems with your utility service. If you are having a problem, need help, or want to make a complaint against your utility provider, you can contact our consumer affairs office and they will try to help. Your information will be kept private, and our team of professional mediators will work with you and your utility to try and resolve the problem.