FAQs

IPU FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

If you would like more information about the Institute please visit our About Page

 

What is IPU’s Mission?

The Institute of Public Utilities supports informed, effective, and efficient regulation of the industries providing essential utility services—electricity, natural gas, water and telecommunications. We fulfill our mission by providing to the regulatory policy community integrative, interdisciplinary and balanced educational programs and applied research on the institutions, theory, and practice of modern economic regulation.

 

What sectors of the economy are of interest to IPU research?

We focus on the economic regulation of electric, gas, water and telecommunications utilities. Our research also extends to regulation as a public policy institution and the history, structure, and function of the regulatory commissions. A variety statistical data related to these areas is available on the IPU Research Page.

 

What educational programs does IPU offer?

We are well known for our annual Regulatory Studies Program, affectionately known as “Camp NARUC,” which offers an intensive introduction to the basics of economic regulation. Besides Camp, we offer an Advanced Regulatory Studies Program, as well as special programs, including a Grid School and Forecasting School. We are also the university host for NARUC’s semi-annual Utility Rate School. Our on-site programs are complemented throughout the year with online seminars. For a complete list of program offerings, visit IPU Programs.

 

How can I get more information on IPU programs?

Please visit the IPU Program pages on our website for details an updates on all IPU program offerings.

 

Who may register for IPU educational programs?

Our Annual Regulatory Studies Program (Camp NARUC) is open only to public sector personnel from government agencies, as well as non-profit consumer or environmental advocates. Camp is closed in order to provide a uniquely private orientation experience for new regulators. Every other program offered by IPU is open to everyone and professional interaction from alternative perspectives is encouraged.

 

Is there a cost to attend an IPU educational program?

Fees vary by program. We generally include breakfasts, breaks, and special evening events. Lunch is also provided during Camp. IPU also negotiates affordable accommodations for all programs, but individual participants are asked to make their own arrangements. Please visit the IPU Programs page for details.

 

Are scholarships or other financial assistance available?

On occasion, IPU receives special funding to underwrite programs. Stipends may also be available from other organizations. Students specialized in the field are welcome to sit in on sessions. If you have a special financial constraint, please contact the IPU Director, Dr. Janice Beecher.

 

Who teaches IPU programs?

IPU’s diverse and nationally recognized program faculty members are drawn from the academic, public, and private sectors and well known for their experience, expertise, and teaching ability. MSU faculty members involved in our programs come from the Colleges of Law, Engineering, Communications, Social Science, and Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 

What types of research does IPU pursue?

IPU’s research program supports our educational and outreach goals. Our research has a distinctly institutional focus; that is , we consider the structure and function of regulation as a critical policymaking institution. We invest a considerable amount of effort in developing accurate historical and descriptive data on regulatory agencies and policies, as well as domestic and global trends in the utility sectors. We often using existing sources and data mining techniques to extract relevant statistics and make them accessible to the regulatory policy community. We also can conduct surveys and more formal research projects, including funded research, as long as it is consistent with academic standards and our mission. IPU’s analytical approach is objective, broad-based, and informed by traditional and applied academic disciplines including the social sciences, law, business, engineering, and communications. Please contact Dr. Beecher with research suggestions or requests.

 

How can I access and use IPU research?

Most IPU research is free to download, including our books. Feel free to browse through our available research. You may cite IPU resources as you would any other source. We do appreciate attribution!

 

How is IPU related to NARUC?

IPU has enjoyed a very long working relationship with NARUC one of its leading continuing education providers. We’re in service to the regulatory professionals who work in NARUC agencies. Our Annual Regulatory Studies Program, affectionately known as Camp NARUC, is a well-established program to which both NARUC and IPU are very committed. So although we are not funded by NARUC, our missions are closely aligned.

 

Does IPU advocate policy positions?

No. Our goal is to support informed regulation, not to take policy positions or advocate any particular idea. When we express our opinions, we are clear about that and about how others’ views and opinions may different. Although we serve as an information resource to regulatory and legislative bodies, we do not get involved directly in rate cases or other proceedings before regulatory commissions.

 

How is IPU funded?

We are a completely self-supported unit within the College of Social Science at Michigan State University. We rely primarily on fees from our educational programs, from grants and contracts, and from corporate contributions made to the University as a non-profit 501(c)3 entity. Consistent with our public-service orientation, contributions to the University improve program affordability, sustain operations, and support research. IPU sponsors share a commitment to our mission of service and a belief that well-informed regulation is broadly beneficial to all stakeholders. The Institute’s governing structure, funding diversity, and ethical standards guard against conflicts of interest.

 

How does IPU fit within Michigan State University?

IPU was founded in 1965 on the beautiful campus of Michigan State University, a Big Ten, land-grant/world-grant institution and 501(c)(3) organization. IPU was originally affiliated with the Graduate School of Business and is now an education and research unit of the College of Social Science. IPU works with faculty across several MSU Colleges, departments, and research centers. The IPU Director is accountable directly to the Dean of the College of Social Science and we comply with all academic and fiscal policies of the University.

 

What’s the history of IPU?

IPU was established at Michigan State University in 1965. At that time, the Department of Economics was part of the Business School as well. Today we are administratively located in the College of Social Sciences. Funding for the Institute originally came from a group of utilities who had a particular interest in independent academic research related to the utility industry and economic regulation. In 1966, the School hired the iconic Professor Harry Trebing, a prominent institutional economist, to be the Institute’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.

Today, stewardship of the IPU and its programs is 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 operational staff, graduate student researchers, and a number of university faculty associates. Please read more about us.

 

CAMP FAQs

 

How is Camp affiliated with NARUC?

At its 1972 meetings, The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) decided to transfer responsibility for the then 15-year old Annual Regulatory Studies Program to Michigan State University and place it under the direction of Prof. Harry Trebing at IPU. Although NARUC does not provide direct funding for the program, it endorses the program through the Subcommittee on Research and Education. The chairs of the key NARUC committees and subcommittees serve on a NARUC Advisory Committee and provide valuable input to the program. Many NARUC members and former Campers serve as program faculty members. IPU is strongly committed to designing Camp and other programs to serve the needs and interests of NARUC members.

 

My state has “restructured.” Should I come to Camp?

Our goal with Camp and other programs is in keeping with our mission; we are educators not advocates of any particular public policy, structural or otherwise. In particular, we take a reasoned approach to structural and regulatory change, without bias or judgment. We do not present regulation and competitive markets as alternatives, but as concepts derived from a common body of knowledge from which modern regulators can draw. Developments in regulation and markets are well considered throughout the program. Commissions in restructured states also continue to have substantial regulatory responsibilities for utility distribution systems. Regardless of where you work and the issues on which you focus, we want to provide the background and tools you need to be effective.

 

I work in government but not at a commission. Can I benefit from Camp?

Yes and you will be most welcome! Legislators and legislative staff members, attorneys general, consumer advocates, and other governmental professionals involved in utility regulation find the program very beneficial in terms of understanding regulatory principles and practices. Special orientation workshops are available for consumer advocates as well as international guests.

 

How does Camp NARUC address differing perspectives on regulation?

Our mission is to promote an informed regulatory process, regardless of one’s role or perspective. We strive to design a program that provides participants with both an objective overview of the theory and practice of regulation, as well as an appreciation of the alternative perspectives on current and often controversial regulatory issues. We welcome diversity of viewpoints and lively interaction among program faculty and participants. We encourage you to engage actively in the dialog and share your views.

 

I’ve been to Camp. Should I come back?

Absolutely! Week One may be revisited as a refresher course for professionals who want to get back to the basics and revisit core principles in a new context. Week Two may be especially appealing to seasoned Campers who want current information about emerging issues and methods of regulation. We invite everyone to return to Camp to enjoy the dynamic content offered in Week Two. In both weeks, individual classes and the overall curriculum are updated continuously to reflect changes in utility operations and regulatory policies and procedures. Returning Campers are also be eligible for program discounts.

 

Do I have to attend both weeks at Camp?

No. For new regulatory professionals, the two-week program provides an intensive and valuable introduction to utility regulation. However, some participants find that they benefit from attending Week One in one year and returning for Week Two in another year. We will gladly accommodate your preferences and give you a discount when you return for Camp.