This article was copied from SC4ever.com. This article originally created by Bobthefunkyfish.
Some of you may have noticed that the utilities in SimCity 4 have greatly changed. Aside from having individual monthly budgets, electricty, water, and garbage have changed in other ways from the game's previous versions. Whereas in SC3KU water was a pain and electricty was simple, it is the other way around in SimCity 4. Garbage is a slightly different game as well.
To begin with, supplying your city with water in SC3KU required you build one of three buildings: A low-capacity water tower which could be placed anywhere and pump the same low amount of water, a high capacity fresh water pump which needed to be placed close to fresh water to pump efficiently, and a massive capacity salt water desalinator, which also required a proximity to the ocean.
However, in SC4, water is much simpler. For on thing, there is no desalinator. For another matter, the fresh water pump no longer requires a proximity to fresh water. That being said, your choice for water is simple: Pumps. Since, in SC4, both towers and pumps can be placed and be efficient anywhere on the map, why place low capacity towers? They even take up more space!
Pollution and water treatment plants still apply, so be careful. Although I say they will be efficient anywhere, there is a smidgen of a pigeon of inefficiency when your water buildings are by your toxic waste dump. Also beware that you don't give your city to much water, as pumps do cost more to maintain (although not even enough to make you want to place towers), and too many of anything is never good. All that said, water is a much simpler task to control in SC4.
Electricty is a far worse in SC4. Wind is once again useless, I won't even go into the reasons not to consider wind, its painful to see/hear of people attempting to use wind in the beginning of the game. Oil is even more useless than wind. Whereas wind can be used occasionally to power remote locations of extreme importance where for some reason you don't want to use power lines, Oil is a ripoff. Before I explain anything else, let me explain why not to use Oil: The plants cost too much to build initially and to maintain for the amount of power you get, and they pollute as much as coal. Two coal plants cost less to maintain a month, produce much more power, and only cost a little bit more initially than one oil plant. Look at the data and use your math (oh no!) and you'll see that oil is no bargain.
So, you may ask, Well gee Bobthefunkyfish, what plants should I build if I need to earn 3 and shouldn't build 2? The answer is simple: Build coal in the beginning and whenever you need power, build gas in situations where you're running out of space you can pollute freely in and, of course, when you need power as well. Waste to Energy plants are alternatives to coal once you've begun your city and you also need to eliminate garbage, but cost more both initially and monthly, so beware. Once you've decided which of these three you need, wait until you have earned one of the other three. Solar should come first. Place these instead of coal and when you don't need to remove garbage. Then wait for nuclear. If you can stomach the possibility of meltdown and have a place for the sucker, and can afford one, you can place these for massive power. Although you may earn fission plants soon, odds are you will never place these, as for some reason they cost way too much both initially and monthly (after ten months of maintaing a fission plant, you will have lost enough money on that plant to have bought another one--after two years, you lost an Empire State Building). After all this bad news, here's a tidbit of good news: Apart from the three plants you have to "earn," you can place any of the other plants whenever you like. No more waiting for specific years!
Garbage is exactly the same. Be mindful where you put your landfills, as always, looking towards where your city will expand. Recycling centers are even simpler, as you now know each center efficiently serves 20000 people (an efficient recycling program reduces 20% of your city's garbage). Waste to Energy plants are as helpful as ever, although they now have a monthly charge of 1K, which may annoy some mayors.
See my beginner's guide for a broad analysis of SimCity 4 in general, and I hope this utility guide will convince everyone of the power of Coal, Garbage, and Nuclear!