About the Institute

The Institute of Public Utilities (IPU) was established in 1965 and operates within MSU Extension 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 MSU Extension 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. Consistent with IPU’s academic foundation, IPU is devoted to the ideals of regulatory independence and technical capacity. 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 education programs feature a diverse faculty network that includes both 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).

In 2020, we turned our focus to developing curricula and delivering exceptional synchronous remote educational opportunities. This model enables IPU to lower the cost of program participation; expand our national and international connections; offer innovative, flexible, and customizable programming; and reduce our carbon footprint.

Taking this proactive step also aligns with IPU’s long-term strategic plan to transform and advance our outreach roles in both applied research and professional education, consistent with our university mission and with the outstanding support of MSU.

We remain as committed as ever to the regulatory policy community and look forward to serving you in the coming years. Watch for important updates to our program calendar and feel free to contact us anytime (ipu@msu.edu).

For IPU FAQ’s click here.

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 takes a principled approach to regulation, an empirical approach to regulatory research, and a reasoned and evidence-based 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.

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 limitations and evolving social objectives. IPU is uncompromising with respect to the obligations of diligence and integrity in regulatory governance

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

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. It now resides within MSU Extension.  IPU has linkages to departments and centers within the University, particularly Engineering, Business, Law, and Social Science. IPU’s work is linked closely to several of the strategic initiatives of 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. 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.

Consistent with IPU’s public-service orientation, funding diversity helps 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 receives insight and advice from program faculty and all constituents. IPU’s governance structure and ethical standards guard against conflicts of interest.

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.

From 2002-2023, stewardship of the IPU was 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

Janice Beecher, 2002-2023

Eric Scorsone (acting), 2023-2024

Mark Skidmore (interim), 2024-present