Utilities News

120 Years of Public Power!

120 Years of Public Power!

The year 2020 marked the 120th anniversary of when the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) began supplying Palo Alto with electricity. CPAU is your community-owned utility empowering Palo Alto for more than a decade!

CPAU employees take pride in delivering excellent service to the Palo Alto community. Here's a quick video with some of our staff showing how we are #CommunityPowered.

Tell us what you value about your community-owned utility. Snap a photo with #CommunityPowered and share with us @PAUtilities or @PaloAltoUtilities

Benefits of Public Utilities

City of Palo Alto municipal utility customers benefit from local control and policy setting, community values-driven programs and services, reliable and safe operations, responsiveness and accountability to utility customers, and competitive rates. 

CPAU is Safety Strong - see some of our public utility heroes in action! We work hard every day to deliver safe, excellent utility services to you. 

Committed to Climate Action - CPAU is committed to climate action and environmental sustainability with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2030. To help us achieve those goals, CPAU’s electric and natural gas portfolios are carbon neutral! Learn about our carbon neutral energy at cityofpaloalto.org/carbonneutral  

Palo Alto is #CommunityPowered

Follow us on social media with #CommunityPowered and help us spread the word about the programs and services that make Palo Alto a unique place to live and work.

CPAU History

It was the forward thinking of two Stanford University professors, Charles “Daddy” Marx and Charles Benjamin Wing, who were largely responsible for the emergence of our municipally-owned utility service. Marx and Wing advocated that the City could provide utility service at rates significantly below those charged by private companies.

o   Early Beginnings

o   A Walk Through Time

o   Looking Forward

CPAU's history began over one hundred years ago, in 1896, when the water supply system was first installed. Two years later, the wastewater collection system came online in 1898. In 1900, the municipal electric power system began operation, followed in 1917 by a natural gas distribution system. Palo Alto is the only city in California to own and operate six essential utility services, including refuse and storm drain (operated out of Public Works). In 1996, Palo Alto ventured into a new endeavor with the construction of its dark fiber loop.

More About CPAU - Our mission is to provide safe, reliable, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective services.

Read about the Utilities 2018 Strategic Plan, including Strategic Direction, Values and Priority focus areas.

Your Award-Winning Utilit

  • 2019 - Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) from the American Public Power Association (APPA) - For proficiency, sound business practices, and a utility-wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity, system improvement, energy efficiency and workforce development.
  • 2019 - Tree Line USA Utility from the National Arbor Day Foundation – In recognition of quality tree care, annual worker training, tree planting and public education.
  • 2018 - Voice of the People (VOP) Award for Excellence in Natural Environment.
  • 2018 - Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) 
  • 2018 - Tree Line USA Utility
  • 2017 - Platinum Level Beacon Award for efforts and leadership in addressing climate change
  • 2017 - First place for Watts-per-Customer installed in 2016. Fourth time on Top Ten list of utilities that integrated the most solar into the grid.
  • 2016 - Moody’s upgraded the City’s Water Enterprise bond rating from Aa2 to Aa1, a rare event for water operations.
  • 2016 - Top Ten list of utilities that integrated the most solar into the grid. Ranked third on the number of Watts-per-Customer list for 2015.2015 - Acterra’s Highest Award for Sustainability among large businesses or organizations.
  • And many more...for a full list of Utilities awards, visit www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/utl/about/awards.asp  


CPAU Areas of Interest


Last Updated: December 23, 2020