A Better Utility is Possible

Take out a piece of paper and join us in asking yourself these questions about what a better utility would look like.

A Better Utility is Possible
Photo by Daniela Paola Alchapar / Unsplash

The People’s Utility Commons first took shape in early 2021, when isaac sevier and Maria Stamas came together to reflect on what we were noticing and experiencing in the height of the pandemic.

We witnessed the waves of emergency policies that temporarily paused utility shutoffs, but we knew from our long history of work on utilities, people’s housing quality, and energy policy, that more structural change would be needed to make these policies last. We did an exercise together that helped seed the project arriving now into the world.

We invite you to join us in this exercise, wherever you are and whenever you are reading this. Take out a piece of paper or open up your notes app, and before reading on, reflect on these questions. Your responses can start you on your journey towards utility justice and can also change over time as you learn more about the topic.

  1. “What do you need from the utility system to thrive?” Since we are often better at noticing what is wrong than dreaming what could be better, it might help to ask “What blocks you from the ability to thrive today?” and then turn that into an alternative, positive vision.
  2. “Who do you know that cares about this like you do?”

Every one will have different answers to these questions. We did, and our answers helped us see each other’s priorities, strengths, and alignment. Those reflections generated the lists below!

Our goal with the People’s Utility Commons is to begin working towards a future we both imagine is possible. Join us!

We need a utility system in which...

  • Our energy needs are supported with a universal right to electricity
  • Our utility infrastructure is resilient in the face of fires and storms
  • We are in right relationship with the workers, communities, and places that provide our energy and raw materials
  • The whole system evokes feelings of joy, connectedness, and supports the freedom of all people to live sustainable lives

We need to build collective power to…

  • Establish utilities as truly public, universal goods that support our ability to thrive, even in the face of climate impacts
  • Repair the harms of the past
  • Eliminate influence by private corporations over our political and utility systems
  • Generate new rules for governing our utility services that reinvigorate community control and strengthen democracy