IPU frequently asked questions

For more information about the Institute please visit About IPU.


What is 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 integrative and interdisciplinary educational curricula and applied research on the institutions, theory, and practice of modern utility regulation.


What is the relationship of IPU to MSU?
IPU was founded in 1965 on the beautiful campus of Michigan State University (MSU), a Big Ten, land-grant global institution and 501(c)(3) organization. IPU is an outreach unit of the College of Social Science and the IPU Director is appointed by and directly accountable to the Dean of the College. IPU complies with all academic, administrative, and fiscal policies of the University. IPU works closely with faculty across several MSU Colleges, departments, and research centers. Our academic affiliation brings value to our continuing education programs and holding them on campus lowers the cost of participation.


How is IPU organized and funded?
IPU is a completely self-supported unit within the College of Social Science at Michigan State University. We rely primarily on fees from our continuing professional educational programs, with additional support from grants, contracts, and corporate gifts to the University as a non-profit 501(c)3 entity. The Institute’s governing structure, funding diversity, operational practices, and ethical standards guard against conflicts of interest related to funding.


What do your program fees cover?
IPU-MSU program fees cover the costs of curriculum and materials development, logistical and faculty expenses, and certain meal and beverage services. IPU is part of MSU, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Revenues in excess of expenditures support IPU’s overall mission of research and education and sustain our role as a trusted resource to the regulatory policy community. In other words, our program attendees are our most important sponsor.


Is IPU a membership organization?
IPU is not a membership or political organization. IPU is fully affiliated with Michigan State University. IPU welcomes the opportunity to work with regulatory professionals individually or through their professional associations. IPU also has an Affiliate program. However, IPU maintains independence consistent with our academic role and service mission.


What is the IPU Affiliate Program?
IPU Affiliates support IPU through collaborative marketing under a simple memorandum of understanding. Affiliate are identified on the IPU website and organizational members receive registration discounts to IPU educational programs.


Does IPU accept contributions in support of its mission?
IPU conditionally accepts financial support of its mission at any level and from diverse sources. By providing partial support of the IPU’s director’s salary, contributions improve program affordability, sustain operations, and support self-directed research. Contributions can be made through the MSU gift portal, are treated as a gift to the University, and are subject to all applicable rules and regulations. IPU sponsors share a commitment to IPU’s mission of service and a belief that well-informed regulation is broadly beneficial to all stakeholders. Recurring major sponsors are invited to serve on an IPU advisory board pursuant to IPU Bylaws as approved by the University.


How is IPU related to NARUC?
IPU is the longest-serving and leading continuing education in the utility regulatory field. IPU programs are nonexclusive and designed to meet the needs of the regulatory policy community, including professionals employed by member agencies of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). IPU programs have never been NARUC officiated, funded, or controlled. Any affiliations or endorsements are considered carefully, as we are university-based and nonexclusive and our independence is consistent with our academic mission.


Does IPU advocate policy positions?
IPU’s goal is to support informed regulation, not to take policy positions or engage in advocacy. We try to disclose our opinions and recognize that others may view issues differently. Although we serve as an information resource to regulatory and legislative bodies, we do not get directly involved in rate cases or other proceedings before the regulatory commissions. From time to time, we will engage in research, investigations, or other forms of engagement meant to improve regulatory governance.


Does IPU conduct research?
IPU’s research program enhances our educational role in support of the regulatory policy community. IPU’s analytical approach is objective, broad-based, and informed by traditional and applied academic disciplines. Most IPU research is self-supported, but we also engage in externally sponsored research as long as it is consistent with academic standards and our mission. For questions about research, please contact the IPU director.


How can I access and use IPU research?
IPU research is freely available to download, including our books (excluding the current book series). IPU resources should be cited and appropriate attribution is much appreciated.


What educational programs does IPU offer?
We are well known for our Annual Regulatory Studies Program, which provides an intensive introduction to the economic regulation of public utilities through both Fundamentals Course and the Intermediate Course, offered consecutively. IPU also offers an Advanced Regulatory Studies Program, a Power Grid Program, introductory training in ratemaking, and customized onsite training programs.


How do I know which IPU program is right for me?
Please see the IPU Program Guide for an overview of all offerings and feel free to give us a call for more information. Visit the IPU program pages on our website for details and updates on all IPU programs.


Are IPU programs open only to regulators?
The Fundamentals Course, offered as the first week of our Annual Regulatory Studies Program, is open only to personnel from public-sector (governmental) agencies and not-for-profit organizations. The Fundamentals Course is closed in order to provide a uniquely private orientation experience for new regulators. All other IPU programs are open to everyone and professional interaction from alternative perspectives is encouraged.


Are IPU programs relevant only to commission staff members?
IPU program curricula are relevant to anyone working in the field of regulation, including public-sector employees at all levels of government (federal, state, regional, and local), as well as not-for-profit and cooperatives organizations. Except for the Fundamentals Program, those working for the private sector may attend as well. Regulatory professionals working for legislatures, attorneys general, consumer and environmental advocates, law and consulting firms, and others find the programs very beneficial in terms of understanding regulatory principles and practices.


Can IPU accommodate international attendees?
IPU welcomes program attendees from all over the world and can help with necessary planning and paperwork. The issues arising in the field of utility regulatory, particularly the challenge of assuring affordable access to essential services, tend to be universal. IPU programs are grounded in core disciplines from which all regulatory professionals draw. Although the programs may have a U.S. focus, much of the information is transferable. We learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives, and all attendees enjoy networking with their counterparts from across the U.S. and abroad. For attendees to get the most out of the programs, fluency in English is recommended.


What is the cost to attend an IPU educational program?
Fees vary but IPU programs offer a great educational value. Fee differentiation by sector, a common practice, reflects fiscal capacity and tax status. We include breakfasts and breaks, as well as special receptions. IPU also negotiates economical room rates for all programs and a program code for the hotel will be provided. Additional fees are charged for meals provided to guests of attendees.


Does IPU offer discounts on program fees?
IPU programs provide great value and are very cost competitive, especially when considering both registration fees and per diem costs. IPU offers a discount to members of IPU Affiliate organizations. IPU also offers discounts to attendee groups from the same organization, if arranged in advance of registration. Discounts for the Intermediate Course are also available for previous attendees of the Fundamentals Course of the Annual Regulatory Studies Program.


Does IPU charge cancellation fees?
IPU tries to avoid charging cancellation fees while reserving the right to do so when costs are incurred. Substitute attendees are accepted at any time. A fee can also be transferred to a future program. When cancellation is necessary, early notification is much appreciated.


Does IPU arrange travel and accommodations?
Program participants are asked to make their own arrangements for travel and hotel stays. Attendees are encouraged to reserve rooms early and to cancel if their plans change. We provide all attendees with helpful information related to travel logistics and places to visit. Please contact IPU for special accommodation needs or assistance.


Can IPU accommodate special needs?
IPU and MSU are committed to equal opportunity and making all programs accessible, safe, and comfortable for all participants. Dietary and mobility concerns can always be accommodated. Please contact IPU about any special needs not addressed on the registration form.


Who teaches at IPU programs?
IPU’s diverse and nationally recognized program faculty members are drawn from the academic, public, and private sectors and are well known for their experience, expertise, and teaching ability. Many program faculty members are graduates of IPU programs. Our instructors are dedicated to developing, sharing, and preserving critical institutional knowledge in the field of public utility regulation. MSU faculty members involved in our programs come from the Colleges of Social Science, Law, Engineering, Communications, and Agriculture and Natural Resources.


Will IPU programs be relevant to me if my jurisdiction has “restructured”?
IPU takes a reasoned approach to structural and regulatory change, without bias or judgment. We do not present regulation and competitive markets as alternatives, but as constructs derived from a common body of knowledge. Developments in regulation and markets are well considered throughout the program. Regulatory commissions in restructured states also continue to have substantial policy responsibilities. Regardless of roles, IPU is committed to providing attendees the information and tools they need.


How do IPU programs address differing perspectives on regulation?
IPU’s core mission is to promote an informed regulatory process. 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 and respect a diversity of viewpoints and encourage active engagement among program faculty and participants.


Do I have to attend both weeks of the Annual Program?
The Annual Regulatory Studies Program consists of two programs offered consecutively. Many attendees attend the program one week at a time. For new regulatory professionals, the two-week program provides an intensive and valuable introduction to utility regulation. Attending both weeks is practical for international attendees. However, many participants find that they benefit from attending the Fundamentals Course in one year and returning for the Intermediate Course in another year. We will gladly accommodate your preferences and give you a discount when you return for a second week of the program.


What is the commissioners-only registration option for the Annual Regulatory Studies Program?
IPU offers a special 2.5-day registration option for commissioners only We recommend that all new regulator attend the Fundamentals Course of the Annual Regulatory Studies Program but we understand that commissioners’ time may be limited. The first 2.5 days of the program provide an essential introduction covering regulatory policy, economics, law, accounting, and finance. Registrants should be aware that this option does not include rate design, regulatory alternatives, and ethics, as these are scheduled for later in the week.


If I already attended the Annual Program, can I come back?
We encourage prior attendees to Come Back to Campus! The Fundamentals Course may be revisited as a refresher for professionals who want to revisit core principles in a new context. The Intermediate Course may be especially appealing to seasoned professionals who want current information about emerging issues and methods of regulation. We invite everyone to return to the program to enjoy the dynamic content offered in the second week. In both weeks, the overall curriculum and individual models are updated continuously to reflect changes in the utility sectors and regulatory policies. Returning attendees are also eligible for a program discount.

Do you publicize the list of program attendees?
Out of respect for your privacy, and in keeping with our educational mission, we do not publicize our attendee lists in advance of our programs. A list will be shared with attendees only. IPU does not facilitate or condone lobbying or ex parte communications at programs.

Does IPU provide financial assistance to program attendees?
IPU limits corporate sponsorship and generally cannot offer financial assistance to program attendees. IPU is completely self-supported and program revenues provide most of our funding for operations. Stipends may be available through other regulatory and professional organizations. MSU faculty and students are welcome to sit in on program sessions. Potential participants facing a financial hardship should contact the IPU Director.