Utility Industry Terms

Environmental Terms






Glossary of General Utility Terms



Alternating current: An electric current that reverses directions at regular intervals (typically 60 times a second); abbreviated "AC." This current is found in homes.


Circuit: A complete or partial path followed by a flow of electric current.


Conductor: A substance or material that allows electrons, or electrical current, to flow through it.


Current: The flow of electricity through a conductor.


Direct current: An electric current flowing in only one direction; abbreviated "DC".


Electro magnetic fields: Invisible force fields that surround the movement of electricity.


Energy: As commonly used in the electric utility industry, electric energy means the portion of electrical service based on kilowatt-hours (kWh) used or consumed.  Energy measures the amount of electricity a customer uses over a period of time.


Fuel cell: A device in which a fuel, such as hydrogen gas, is combined with oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat.


Generator: A machine for producing electrical current when rotated by an external driver such as a turbine.


Greenhouse Gases: Those gases, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride, that are transparent to short-wave (solar) radiation but opaque to long-wave (infrared) radiation, thus preventing long-wave radiant energy from leaving Earth's atmosphere.


Grid: A system of interconnected power lines and generators that is managed so that the generators are dispatched as needed to meet the requirements of the customers connected to the grid at various points.


Ground: A connection from an electrical circuit to the earth.


Kilowatt (kW): A unit for measuring electrical energy. 1,000 watts = 1 kilowatt


Kilowatt hour (kWh): The use of 1,000 watts of electricity for one full hour.


Load: The power output of a generator or power plant. Also, the resistance of a device to which power is delivered.


Megawatt: One million watts or 1,000 kW.


Meter: An instrument that records or regulates the amount of something passing through it, like electricity, water or gas.


Smart Grid:  A term for the utility power distribution grid which features computer technology and two-way digital communications networking.  The term includes a variety of utility applications that automate the monitoring and control of electrical distribution networks for added reliability, efficiency and cost effective operations.


Switch: A device for connecting, breaking or changing the connections in an electrical circuit.


Transformer: A device that raises or lowers the voltage or force of AC electricity.


Turbine-generator: A machine in which the energy of a moving fluid, such as water or steam, is converted to mechanical power that drives an electric generator.


Volt: A unit for measuring the force used to produce an electric current; the push or force that moves electric current through a conductor.


Watt: A unit for measuring electric power. 1 kilowatt = 1,000 watts. 1 Megawatt = 1,000,000 watts.





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