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, and is located on MSU’s beautiful East Lansing campus. IPU operates as a self-sustaining unit within the College of Social Science and collaborates with faculty and researchers from various academic colleges, departments, and centers.

IPU specializes in building capacity for meeting the challenges of utility, network, and market governance, including modernization and transformation. 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 diverse program faculty includes nationally recognized university educators and expert practitioners known for their insight, experience, and teaching ability.

IPU forums provide exceptional development and networking opportunities for everyone in the utility policy community, whether from the public, not-for-profit, or private sectors, including but not limited to: regulatory commissioners, board members, and other officials; staff members of commissions and other agencies; consumer and environmental advocates; attorneys, accountants, engineers, consultants, and other professionals; and public utility personnel.

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 electricity, natural gas, water, and internet services. We fulfill our mission by delivering to the utility policy community independent, integrative and interdisciplinary educational curricula and applied research on the institutions, theory, and practice of economic regulation and ratemaking.

IPU is devoted to the ideals of regulation in the public interest. 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 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 utility policy and regulation are well served by university-based research and education.

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.

Dr. Janice Beecher (beecher@msu.edu) has served as IPU’s Director since 2002. She brings more than thirty years of practical and academic experience to the position.

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, 2002-2023

Eric Scorsone, 2023-Present