The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (April 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
A public utility company (usually just utility) is an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service (often also providing a service using that infrastructure). Public utilities are subject to forms of public control and regulation ranging from local community-based groups to statewide government monopolies.
Public utilities are meant to supply goods/services that are considered essential; water, gas, electricity, telephone, and other communication systems represent much of the public utility market. The transmission lines used in the transportation of electricity, or natural gas pipelines, have natural monopoly characteristics. If the infrastructure already exists in a given area, minimal benefit is gained through competing. In other words, these industries are characterized by economies of scale in production. 
There are many different types of public utilities. Some, especially large companies, offer multiple products, such as electricity and natural gas. Other companies specialize in one specific product, such as water. Modern public utilities may also be partially (or completely) sourced from clean and renewable energy in order to produce sustainable electricity. Of these, wind turbines and solar panels are those used most frequently. For ease of monitoring or distribution, some companies break down the supply of public services into different segments that can be included in the same utility package, or distributed between different companies.
- Generators produce or collect the specific product to be used by customers: for example, electricity or water.
- Network operators (grid operators, regional network operators, and distribution network operators) sell access to their networks to retail service providers, who deliver the product to the end user.
- Traders and marketers buy and sell the actual product and create further complex structured products, combined services and derivatives products. Depending on the product structure, these companies may provide utilities and businesses with a reliable supply of a product like electricity at a stable, predictable price, or a shorter term supply at a more volatile market-based price.
- Service providers and retailers are the last segment in the supply chain, selling directly to the final consumer. In some markets, final consumers can choose their own retail service provider.
Public utilities must pursue the following objective given the social responsibility their services attribute to them: -Ensuring services are of the highest quality and responsive to the needs and wishes of patients; -Ensuring that health services are effectively targeted so as to improve the health of local populations; -Improving the efficiency of the services so the volume of well-targeted effective services is the widest, given the available resources.
Public utilities are generally so called because there is structurally no room for market competition. One firm can produce at lower a cost and as a consequence hypothetical competitors are priced out of the market. With this market conditions, natural monopolies grow up and tend to be regulated by governments following the public interest. However, being a natural monopoly is not a necessary prerequisite for government intervention and regulation. Industries that are not natural monopolies could be regulated for several reasons, for example service reliability, universal access, and national security. 
The management of public utilities continues to be important for local and general governments. By creating, expanding, and improving upon public utilities, a governmental body may attempt to improve its image or attract investment. Traditionally, public services have been provided by public legal entities, which operate much like corporations, but differ in that profit is not necessary for a functional business. A significant factor in government ownership has been to reduce the risk that an activity, if left to private initiative, may be considered not sufficiently profitable and neglected. Many utilities are essential for human life, national defense, or commerce, and the risk of public harm with mismanagement is considerably greater than with other goods. The principle of universality of utilities maintains that these services are best owned by, and operating for, the public. of the service: companies' decisions generally involve too high prices and relatively little service compared to competitive conditions. The government and the society itself would like to see these services being economically accessible to all or most of the population. Furthermore other economic reasons based the idea: public services need huge investments in infrastructures, crucial for competitiveness but with a slow return of capital; last, technical difficulties can occur in the management of plurality of networks, example in the city subsoil. 
Public pressure for renewable energy as a replacement for legacy fossil fuel power has steadily increased since the 1980s. As the technology needed to source the necessary amount of energy from renewable sources is still under study, public energy policy has been focused on short term alternatives such as natural gas (which still produces substantial carbon dioxide) or Nuclear power. In 2021 a power and utilities industry outlook report by Deloitte identified a number of trends for the utilities industry:
- Enhanced competition, sparked by regulations such as FERC's Order 2222 that open up the market to smaller, innovative firms using renewable energy sources, like wind or solar power
- Expansions in infrastructure, to manage new renewable energy sources
- Greater electrification of transportation, and longer-range batteries for cars and trucks
- Oil companies and other traditional-energy players entering the renewable-energy field
- A greater emphasis on disaster readiness 
Issues faced by public utilities include:
- Service area: regulators need to balance the economic needs of the companies and the social equity needed to guarantee to everyone the access to primary services.
- Autonomy: Economic efficiency requires that markets be left to work by themselves with little intervention. Such instances are often not equitable for some consumers that might be priced out of the market.
- Pricing: Equity requires that all citizens get the service at a fair price. 
Alternative pricing methods include:
- Average production costs: the utility calculates the break-even point and then set the prices equal to average costs. The equity issue is basically overcome since most of the market is being served. As a defect regulated firms don’t have incentives to minimize costs.
- rate of return regulation: regulators let the firms set and charge any price, as long as the rate of return on invested capital does not exceed a certain rate. This method is flexible and allows for pricing freedom, forcing regulators to monitor prices. The drawback is that this method could lead to overcapitalization. For example, if the rate of return is set at 5 percent, then the firm can charge a higher price simply by investing more in capital than what it is actually needed (i.e., 5% of $10 million is greater than 5% of $6 million).
- Price cap regulation: regulators directly set a limit on the maximum price. This method can result in a loss of service area. One benefit of this method is that it gives firms an incentive to seek cost-reducing technologies as a strategy to increase utility profits.
Utility stocks are considered stable investments because provide they typically provide regular dividends to shareholders and have low volatility. Even in periods of economic downturns characterized by low interest rates, such stocks are attractive because dividend yields are usually greater than those of other stocks, so utilities are a reliable long-term buy-and-hold option.
Utilities require expensive critical infrastructure which needs regular maintenance and replacement. Consequently, the industry is capital intensive, requiring regular access to the capital markets for external financing. A utility's capital structure may have a significant debt component, which exposes the company to interest rate risk. Should rates rise, the company must offer higher yields to attract bond investors, driving up the utility's interest expenses. If the company's debt load and interest expense becomes too large, its credit rating will deteriorate, further increasing the cost of capital and potentially limiting access to the capital markets. 
In the United States, public utilities are often natural monopolies because the infrastructure required to produce and deliver a product such as electricity or water is very expensive to build and maintain. As a result, they are often government monopolies, or if privately owned, the sectors are specially regulated by a public utilities commission. The first public utility in the United States was a grist mill erected on Mother Brook in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1640.
Developments in technology have eroded some of the natural monopoly aspects of traditional public utilities. For instance, electricity generation, electricity retailing, telecommunication, some types of public transit and postal services have become competitive in some countries and the trend towards liberalization, deregulation and privatization of public utilities is growing. However, the infrastructure used to distribute most utility products and services has remained largely monopolistic.
Public utilities can be privately owned or publicly owned. Publicly owned utilities include cooperative and municipal utilities. Municipal utilities may actually include territories outside of city limits or may not even serve the entire city. Cooperative utilities are owned by the customers they serve. They are usually found in rural areas. Publicly owned utilities are non-profit. Private utilities, also called investor-owned utilities, are owned by investors, and operate for profit, often referred to as a rate of return.
Public utilities provide services at the consumer level, be it residential, commercial, or industrial consumer. In turn, utilities and very large consumers buy and sell electricity at the wholesale level through a network of regional transmission organizations (RTO) and independent system operators (ISO) within one of three grids, the Eastern Interconnection, the Texas Interconnection, which is a single ISO, and the Western Interconnection.
Public utilities commissions
A public utilities commission is a governmental agency in a particular jurisdiction that regulates the commercial activities related to associated electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and/or passenger transportation companies. For example, the California Public Utilities Commission (or CPUC)  and the Public Utility Commission of Texas regulate the utility companies in California and Texas, respectively, on behalf of their citizens and ratepayers (customers). These public utility commissions (PUCs) are typically composed of commissioners, who are appointed by their respective governors, and dedicated staff that implement and enforce rules and regulations, approve or deny rate increases, and monitor/report on relevant activities. Over the years, various changes have dramatically re-shaped the mission and focus of many public utility commissions. Their focus has typically shifted from the up-front regulation of rates and services to the oversight of competitive marketplaces and enforcement of regulatory compliance.
United Kingdom and Ireland
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the state, private firms, and charities ran the traditional public utilities. For instance, the Sanitary Districts were established in England and Wales in 1875 and in Ireland in 1878.
The term can refer to the set of services provided by various organizations that are used in everyday life by the public, such as: electricity generation, electricity retailing, electricity supplies, natural gas supplies, water supplies, Sewage works, sewage systems and broadband internet services. They are regulated by Ofgem, Ofwat and Ofcom. Disabled community transport services may occasionally be included within the definition. They were mostly privatised in the UK during the 1980s.
- "Public Utility | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
- Murphy, Chris B. "How the Utilities Sector is Used by Investors for Dividends and Safety". Investopedia. Retrieved 2021-04-26.
- Gilardoni, A (2015). Public Utilities e Infrastrutture. Profili economici e gestionali. Agici.
- "2021 Power and Utilities Industry Outlook". Deloitte United States. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
- "Public-Private Partnerships for Infrastructure | ScienceDirect". www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
- Murphy, Chris B. "How the Utilities Sector is Used by Investors for Dividends and Safety". Investopedia. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
- Berg, Sanford, Tschirhart (1998). natural monopoly regulation. Cambridge University.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "Public utility - Definition". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
- "public utility definition". Investorwords.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
- "Where Growth Centers". The Salina Evening Journal. Salina, Kansas. November 6, 1922. p. 13. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 17, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "investor-owned utility (IOU), private utility, private power company". www.energyvortex.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
- "Electric Utilities". www.utilityconnection.com. Archived from the original on 27 October 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
- Pentland, William. "Investor-Owned Utilities: Asleep at the Switch or Above the Law?". forbes.com. Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
- "California Public Utilities Commission". Cpuc.ca.gov. 2007-03-23. Archived from the original on 2011-10-10. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
- "Public Utilities Commission of Texas". Public Utilities Commission of Texas. Archived from the original on 14 August 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
- "Utilities Websites". Uk250.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2011-11-04. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
|Look up utility in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|