About the Institute

About the Institute

The Institute of Public Utilities (IPU) was established in 1965 and operates within the College of Social Science at Michigan State University, the nation’s pioneer land-grant institution. We are located on MSU’s beautiful East Lansing campus and collaborate with faculty and researchers from various academic colleges, departments, and centers. IPU is an independent nonprofit unit of the University and financially self-sustaining.

IPU specializes in conducting applied research and providing exceptional learning and networking opportunities to professionals in the regulatory policy community. IPU’s neutral analytical and instructional practice is informed by a broad array of traditional and applied disciplines including economics, political science, law, accounting, finance, and engineering. IPU‘s educational forums sharpen the skills needed to address today’s most salient challenges of infrastructure governance, including the integration of markets and economic regulation.

IPU is devoted to the ideals of regulatory independence and technical capacity. IPU’s diverse program faculty includes nationally recognized university educators and expert practitioners known for their insight, experience, and teaching ability. Program participation is typically eligible for continuing education credits and can lead to a Certificate of Continuing Regulatory Education (CCRE).

IPU’s Mission

The Institute of Public Utilities (IPU) supports informed, effective, and efficient regulation of the infrastructure-intensive network industries providing essential utility services – electricity, natural gas, water, and telecommunications.

We fulfill our mission by providing to the regulatory policy community independent, integrative, and interdisciplinary educational curricula and applied research on the institutions, theory, and practice of modern utility regulation. Public utility services are fundamental to the human condition in terms of health, welfare, and development. Economic regulation is essential in the context of persistent market constraints and evolving social objectives. IPU is dedicated to regulation in the public interest and uncompromising with respect to the obligations of diligence and integrity in regulatory governance. IPU takes a principled approach to regulation, an empirical approach to regulatory research, and a reasoned approach to structural and regulatory change. IPU’s guiding philosophy is that regulation can be well served by university-based research and education.

Through the Years: A photographic history of IPU [PowerPoint]

Tradition of stewardship

Consistent with MSU’s land-grant heritage and commitment, IPU takes particular pride in a long tradition of stewardship, service, and responsiveness to the educational needs of federal, state, local, and international regulators. IPU programs provide highly specialized and integrative continuing education for practitioners with backgrounds in the variety of academic disciplines that are necessary to effective economic regulation in its quasi-judicial, quasi-legislative, and quasi-administrative capacities.

The IPU curricula is inspired by the idea of life-long learning. The Institute’s flagship Annual Regulatory Studies Program, affectionately known as “Camp NARUC,” is particularly well regarded by regulatory practitioners. Since assuming responsibility for the program in 1972, IPU has provided this foundational training in the regulatory paradigm to thousands of commissioners and staff members. The Annual Program is well complemented by the hands-on experience provided by the NARUC Utility Rate Schools, for which IPU serves as the university host. The Advanced Regulatory Studies Program and the IPU Grid School are available to seasoned professionals. The Annual Michigan Forum on Regulatory Policy provides a unique conference opportunity for the local policy community. IPU also offers customized onsite training.

IPU enjoys a close working relationship with members of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), including endorsement of key programs and the CCRE. IPU forums also provide professional development opportunities to the various participants in the regulatory process, including consumer and environmental advocates, attorneys, consultants, and utility personnel. Although utility regulators comprise our core audience, IPU’s outreach extends to energy resource and environmental regulators, public policy-makers in general, and other stakeholders in the regulatory policy community. We are committed to providing all attendees with knowledge and tools relevant to their respective roles consistent with our mission of supporting informed, effective and efficient regulation.

In addition to our educational role, IPU also has interests and expertise in data collection and applied research on public utility regulation. IPU publishes research and resources online and has a book series with MSU Press.

Organization, accountability, and funding

IPU originally was organized within the Graduate School of Business, where the Department of Economics also was located. IPU was relocated to the College of Communications in 2002 and to the College of Social Science in 2007, where it now resides. The IPU Director is accountable to the Dean of the Social Science. IPU has linkages to departments and centers within the College, including Political Science and Economics, but also across colleges, particularly Engineering, Business, Law, and Agriculture and Natural Resources. IPU’s work is linked closely to several of the strategic initiatives of the College and the University. IPU also has strong working relationships with other universities, nationally and internationally, as well as with federal and state regulatory agencies and their professional associations.

IPU is structured as a university-based knowledge center as well as a virtual network of expertise. IPU sustains operations entirely through program revenues, contracts and grants, and limited recurring private donations. IPU is an independent, not-for-profit research and educational organization located at Michigan State University, which qualifies for charitable financial support. Contributions to IPU from public or private sources are treated as gifts to MSU and designated for general research purposes and allocated to support the Director’s position. In accordance with University rules, contributors cannot stipulate or expect control of specific output. IPU also maintains a fund operating as an endowment.

Consistent with IPU’s public-service orientation, contributions to the University help us maintain Institute operations, support student assistantships, conduct discretionary research, and minimize program participation costs to the public sector. IPU constituents and contributors share a commitment to the Institute’s mission of service and a belief that well-informed regulation is beneficial to all stakeholders, as well as to society. IPU’s governance structure, funding diversity, and ethical standards guard against conflicts of interest. IPU receives input and advice from an Industry Advisory Board, as well as faculty and constituent advisory committees.

For more information about supporting IPU, please contact Dr. Janice Beecher at 517.355.1876 or beecher@msu.edu.

IPU’s History at MSU

At its founding in 1965, IPU was originally affiliated with the MSU’s Graduate School of Business, which at that time was home to the Department of Economics. Funding originally came from a group of utilities that had a particular interest in independent academic research related to the utility industries and economic regulation. In 1966, the School hired the iconic Professor Harry Trebing, a prominent institutional economist, as IPU’s founding director.

In 1972, the leadership of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) asked Prof. Trebing to direct the two-week NARUC Annual Regulatory Studies Program, which came to be affectionately known by students as “Camp NARUC.” For many years, IPU served as NARUC’s educational arm. Camp and other IPU programs were recognized as NARUC sponsored and prominently displayed the NARUC logo. Oversight was provided through the NARUC Committee on Administration. NARUC also asked Prof. Trebing to provide commissioner-only education, including the “TEC” (The Education Conference) held in conjunction with NARUC meetings through the early 1990s. IPU’s Annual Conference, which came to be known as the Williamsburg Conference, was also well attended by NARUC members along with prominent academicians and industry analysts.

Prof. Trebing elevated IPU educational programs to national and international prominence because of his genuine belief in public service, good government, and the value of university-based continuing education designed exclusively for regulators. The Institute and its intellectual resources remain Prof. Trebing’s enduring legacy in the field of public utility regulation.

Since 2002, stewardship of the IPU has been in the hands of Dr. Janice Beecher, who brought academic and practical qualifications to the position of Director, as well as a commitment to outreach, scholarship, and institutional integrity. Her lifelong journey in the field of regulation began with a state regulatory commission staff position and includes completion of a doctoral dissertation on public utility regulation at Northwestern University and senior research positions at Ohio State University (NRRI) and Indiana University (SPEA). IPU is supported by a small administrative staff, graduate student researchers, and several university faculty associates.

IPU Directors:

Harry Trebing, 1966-1990

Charles Stalon, 1991-1992

Johannes Bauer, 1993-1998

Pamela Prairie, 1998-2000

Michele Wilsey, 2000-2002 (acting)

Janice Beecher, 2002-present