What Is Utility Revenue Bond?

What Is Utility Revenue Bond?

3 Min.

A utility revenue bond is a type of municipal bond specifically issued to finance a public utility project. The investors are repaid directly from the project revenues. Given the essential nature of the services offered by the public utility project, a net revenue pledge is frequently incorporated in utility revenue bonds. To evaluate utility revenue bonds and the projects that they finance, investors rely on metrics such as the coverage ratio.


A utility revenue bond, commonly called an essential service bond, represents a specific category of municipal bonds. These bonds serve as a means to secure funding for public utilities by directing repayment to bondholders directly from project-generated revenues, as opposed to relying on general tax revenue sources.

Insights Into Utility Revenue Bonds

Utility revenue bonds serve as a funding mechanism for critical public service sectors, including healthcare facilities, fire departments, water treatment plants, waste treatment facilities, and electrical grid enhancements. These vital services generate revenue from customer fees, ensuring a consistent cash flow for debt servicing.

These revenue bonds offer two distinct pledge types: gross revenue and net revenue. Under a gross revenue pledge, bondholder payments precede project operational and maintenance costs. In contrast, a net revenue pledge allows for allocating administrative expenses and care costs before meeting bondholder obligations.

Utilities, which deliver indispensable services like water and electricity, often opt for a net revenue pledge due to the imperative need for continuous upkeep and maintenance. Moreover, utilities are frequently mandated to maintain a specific revenue-to-expenditure ratio. This ratio incorporates debt repayment as an expense and frequently serves as a basis for justifying customer rate adjustments within the public utilities sector.

Repayment Mechanisms for Utility Revenue Bonds

Municipal bonds offer two repayment methods: municipal taxation, as seen in general obligation bonds, and revenue bonds, which derive income from the specific capital project. While general obligation bonds ensure repayment through various means, such as tax increases, additional bond issuances, or asset sales, revenue bonds rely solely on project-generated income. Investors should consider this distinction when constructing a diversified fixed-income portfolio.

Credit rating agencies and investors assess utility revenue bonds and their associated projects based on several factors. The coverage ratio gauges the relationship between anticipated revenues and principal plus interest obligations. Population size and trends offer insights into potential revenue growth or decline for utility projects.

Additionally, the concentration of customers who contribute to debt repayment is a crucial factor. If a small group of consumers accounts for a substantial share of a public utility's service fees, it can pose risks to the project's revenue sustainability.


Utility revenue bonds are crucial to funding public utility projects, with a focus on direct repayment from project revenues. Using a net revenue pledge, especially for essential services, emphasizes the commitment to maintaining these vital utilities. Evaluation metrics like the coverage ratio guide investment decisions. Additionally, considering customer concentration and reliance on project income informs portfolio diversification. Utility revenue bonds remain a cornerstone of municipal infrastructure funding.

Utility Revenue Bond