• Electric Utility Terms

    Units of Measurement

    Kilovolt (kV): One-thousand volts. Distribution lines in residential areas usually are 12 kv (12,000 volts).

    Kilowatt (kW): A unit of electric power equal to 1,000 watts. One kilowatt can light up ten 100-watt light bulbs.

    Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The electrical energy unit of measure equal to one kilowatt of power supplied to, or taken from, an electric circuit steadily for one hour. The basic unit for pricing electricity. A kilowatt-hour is equivalent to one kilowatt of power used for one hour.

    Megawatt (MW): A megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts. One megawatt-hour is enough power to service 1,000 homes for about one day.

    Watt: The unit of electrical power equal to one ampere under a pressure of one volt. A watt is equal to 1/746 horse power.



    Alternating current (AC):  An electric current that reverses its direction at regularly recurring intervals.

    AMI:  Advanced Metering Infrastructure is a term denoting electric meters that measure and record usage data at a minimum, in hourly intervals, and provide usage data to both consumers and energy companies at least once daily.

    Ampere:  The unit of measurement of electrical current produced in a circuit by 1 volt acting through a resistance of 1 Ohm.

    AMR:  Automated Meter Reading is a term denoting electric meters that collect data for billing purposes only and transmit this data one way, usually from the meter to the distribution utility.

    Backbone system: Backbone system is all of the Association's distribution facilities.

    Backup generator:   A generator that is used only for test purposes, or in the event of an emergency, such as a shortage of power needed to meet customer load requirements.

    Backup power:  Electric energy supplied by a utility to replace power and energy lost during an unscheduled equipment outage.

    Base charge: The charge(s) for service to the consumer that is derived from the Association's fixed costs.

    Bill components:

    1. Base charge is the charge(s) for service to the consumer that is derived from the Association's fixed costs.
    2. Energy charge is the charge associated with the consumption of electricity over a period of time by the consumer of the power system.
    3. Demand charge is the charge associated with the maximum rate of flow of electricity demanded at one point in time during a typical billing period.
    4. Franchise fees are those fees imposed upon the Association by Franchise Agreements with public entities.
    5. Taxes are sales and use taxes associated with state, city, and county taxes.
    6. Adjustments are charges or credits associated with the consumer's bill including, but not limited to:
      a. Misread meters
      b. Transfer amounts from one account to another
      c. Delinquent charges
      d. Collection fees
      e. Tampering fees
      f. Over/under payments
      g. Transfer amount for other charges due the Association
      h. Estimated usage

    Billing period:  The time between meter readings. It does not refer to the time when the bill was sent or when the payment was to have been received. In some cases, the billing period is the same as the billing cycle that corresponds closely (within several days) to meter reading dates.

    CFC: National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation. CFC is a member-owned, nonprofit cooperative. It was organized in 1969 to raise funds from the capital markets to supplement the loan programs for electric cooperatives offered by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), previously Rural Electrification Administration (REA).

    Class rate schedule:  An electric rate schedule applicable to one or more specified classes of service, groups of businesses, or customer uses.

    Classes of service:  Customers grouped by similar characteristics in order to be identified for the purpose of setting a common rate for electric service. Usually classified into groups identified as residential, commercial, industrial, and other.

    Coincidental demand:  The sum of two or more demands that occur in the same time interval.

    Coincidental peak load:  The sum of two or more peak loads that occur in the same time interval.

    Conductor:  Metal wires, cables, and bus-bar used for carrying electric current. Conductors may be solid or stranded, that is, built up by a assembly of smaller solid conductors.

    Connected load: Connected load is the combined rated capacity of all of the consumer's electrical energy consuming equipment.

    Consumer's installation: Consumer's installation is the wiring and apparatus owned by the consumer on their side of the Point of Delivery (except the Association's meter).

    Cooperative electric utility:  An electric utility legally established to be owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its service. The utility company will generate, transmit, and/or distribute supplies of electric energy to a specified area not being serviced by another utility. Most electric cooperatives have been initially financed by the Rural Utilities Service (prior Rural Electrification Administration), U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Cost-of-service regulation:  A traditional electric utility regulation under which a utility is allowed to set rates based on the cost of providing service to customers and the right to earn a limited profit.

    CREA: Colorado Rural Electric Association. The mission of the Colorado Rural Electric Association is to enhance and advance the interests of its member electric cooperatives through a united effort.

    DC:   Direct current

    Demand charge: The charge associated with the maximum rate of flow of electricity demanded at one point in time during a typical billing period.

    Distribution system: Distribution system is all of the Association's facilities from the transmission system to the consumer's installation, including the Association's meter.

    DOE:  Department of Energy

    Electric current:  The flow of electric charge. The preferred unit of measure is the ampere.

    Electric energy:  The ability of an electric current to produce work, heat, light, or other forms of energy. It is measured in kilowatthours.

    Electric generator:  A facility that produces only electricity, commonly expressed in kilowatthours (kWh) or megawatthours (MWh). Electric generators include electric utilities and independent power producers.

    Electric power:  The rate at which electric energy is transferred. Electric power is measured by capacity and is commonly expressed in megawatts (MW).

    Electric service: Electric service is the availability of electric power and energy at the consumer's point of delivery.

    Electric system loss:  Total energy loss from all causes for an electric utility.

    End user:  A firm or individual that purchases products for its own consumption and not for resale (i.e., a consumer).

    Energy:  The capacity for doing work as measured by the capability of doing work (potential energy) or the conversion of this capability to motion (kinetic energy). Energy has several forms, some of which are easily convertible and can be changed to another form useful for work. Most of the world's convertible energy comes from fossil fuels that are burned to produce heat that is then used as a transfer medium to mechanical or other means in order to accomplish tasks. Electrical energy is usually measured in kilowatthours, while heat energy is usually measured in British thermal units (Btu).

    Energy charge: The charge associated with the consumption of electricity over a period of time by the consumer of the power system.

    Energy efficiency:  A ratio of service provided to energy input (e.g., lumens to watts in the case of light bulbs). Services provided can include buildings-sector end uses such as lighting, refrigeration, and heating: industrial processes; or vehicle transportation. Unlike conservation, which involves some reduction of service, energy efficiency provides energy reductions without sacrifice of service. May also refer to the use of technology to reduce the energy needed for a given purpose or service.

    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC):  The Federal agency with jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales, wholesale electric rates, hydroelectric licensing, natural gas pricing, oil pipeline rates, and gas pipeline certification. FERC is an independent regulatory agency within the Department of Energy and is the successor to the Federal Power Commission.

    Franchise fees: Fees imposed upon the Association by Franchise Agreements with public entities.

    Idle service: An idle service is an electrical service that has been disconnected and has remained disconnected for more than a month.

    Indeterminate service: Indeterminate service is electric service to all industrial and commercial facilities where the use of electricity, in either amount or permanency, cannot be determined with assurance. Examples of indeterminate service include, but are not limited to: mines, quarries, oil/gas wells, industrial and commercial enterprises, irrigation systems, apartment buildings and mobile home parks.

    NERC: North American Electric Reliability Corporation.  A nonprofit corporation formed in 2006 as the successor to the North American Electric Reliability Council established to develop and maintain mandatory reliability standards for the bulk electric system, with the fundamental goal of maintaining and improving the reliability of that system. NERC consists of regional reliability entities covering the interconnected power regions of the contiguous United States, Canada, and Mexico

    NRECA:  National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. A national organization dedicated to representing the interests of cooperative electric utilities and the consumers they serve. Members come from the 46 states that have an electric distribution cooperative.

    Permanent service: Permanent service is electric service to a single residential applicant.

    Point of Delivery: Point of Delivery is the point at which the Association's facilities are connected with the consumer's installation (usually referred to by the Association as the point of attachment) unless otherwise specified.

    Power factor: Power factor is the ratio of active power (kW) to apparent power (kVA) as measured.

    Rates:  The authorized charges per unit or level of consumption for a specified time period for any of the classes of utility services provided to a customer.

    Reliability (electric system):  A measure of the ability of the system to continue operation while some lines or generators are out of service. Reliability deals with the performance of the system under stress.

    Rental lights: Area light(s) where the electricity to operate the light will not pass through an Association's meter. The Association will be responsible for the maintenance of the light except in the case of vandalism or damage caused by a vehicle or other event beyond the reasonable control of the Association.

    Right-of-way:  The land and legal right to use and service the land along which a distribution or transmission line is located. Distribution and transmission line right-of-way is usually acquired in widths that vary with the kilovolt (kV) size of the line.

    Round Up Foundation: Round Up Foundation is a community service program developed to gather voluntary contributions from participating co-op members by rounding up their monthly bills to the next dollar. These donations are available to local organizations requesting assistance. Agencies must apply for these funds through the Operation Round Up board of directors.

    RUS: United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service.

    Sales for resale:  A type of wholesale sales covering energy supplied to other electric utilities, cooperatives, municipalities, and Federal and state electric agencies for resale to ultimate consumers.

    Service upgrade: Modification of existing facilities and/or electric service(s) due to increased demand from additional load that may be made at applicant's request.

    Standard Service Voltage (Service Voltage): Standard Service Voltage is the voltage supplied to the consumer's connected load. This voltage is held at a level in accordance to common industry practice.

    The typical Service Voltage for electric service that is available is as follows:

    Average voltages – 120; 208; 240; 277; 480; 2,400; 4,160; 7,200; 12,470; 46,000; 69,000; 115,000

    Subdivisions: Subdivisions shall be defined by the local governing body of the city, county, state, or entity having jurisdiction.

    Tariff:  A published volume of rate schedules and general terms and conditions under which a product or service will be supplied.

    Temporary service: Temporary service is electric service to projects or enterprises for which the uses of electricity may be of a short duration by their nature. Examples of temporary service include, but are not limited to: construction projects, fairs, circuses, recreational vehicles, mining, oil and/or gas production during start up stages and other enterprises of short term longevity.

    Transformer:  An electrical device for changing the voltage of alternating current.

    Transmission and distribution loss:  Electric en­ergy lost due to the transmission and distribution of electricity. Much of the loss is thermal in nature.

    Transmission Service: The portion of the electrical system that is energized at higher voltage levels (in excess of 25 kV).

    Transmission system: Transmission system is all of the Association's facilities typically energized at 46,000 volts or higher. The transmission system interconnects the Association's electrical substations.

    Voltage:  The difference in electrical potential between any two conductors or between a conductor and ground. It is a measure of the electric energy per electron that electrons can acquire and/or give up as they move between the two conductors.


    For a more comprehensive glossary of terms click here.


    How an electric system works:

    Electric systems are designed to supply customers with safe, reliable and affordable energy. But doing that requires a number of complex processes and systems. Of course not all systems are designed exactly alike because each community has its own special needs, as well as its own special geography. However, the basic components are the same:

    1. Power plant – Electricity starts here, produced by spinning generators that are driven by water, a diesel engine, or a natural gas or steam turbine. Steam is made by burning coal, oil or natural gas or by a nuclear reactor. When needed, extra power is brought into an electric system from plants outside the area.
    2. Power grid – Electricity is carried over a network, or "grid," that connects power plants to a substation and from there to distribution lines that take the power to homes or businesses.
    3. Transmission substation – These facilities look like giant erector sets connected to wires from the power plant. Here large transformers increase voltage from thousands to hundreds of thousands of volts so the power can be sent over long distances.
    4. Distribution Substation – You see them around towns and cities. They are those small fenced-in areas that have electric lines coming in and going out. Inside these fenced-in areas are transformers that reduce voltage to a lower level so the power can be sent out on distribution lines to the surrounding community.
    5. Distribution system – Includes main or primary lines and lowervoltage or secondary lines that deliver electricity through overhead or underground wires to homes and businesses. You see these lines every day on poles alongside roads and streets.
    6. Service connection – That’s the line that connects to the meter on the side of homes and businesses. The meter is used to determine how many kilowatt-hours are used by each customer.