July 15: The History of Power and Politics

Presentation Slides:

The History of Power and Politics - Cara Lee Mahany Braithwait

Energy, Power, and Electricity - Scott Williams

The Foundations of Electric Utility Regulation - Theresa Hottenroth


Reading Files:

Conversion calculator



Short articles:

Energy Appliance Use

Residential Energy Consumption


General Electric Terms

Base load:  The minimum amount of electric power delivered or required over a given period of time at a steady rate.

Distribution:  The delivery of energy to retail customers.

Distribution system:  The portion of the transmission and facilities of an electric system that is dedicated to delivering electric energy to an end-user.

Electric power grid:  A system of synchronized power providers and consumers connected by transmission and distribution lines and operated by one or more control centers. Also known as transmission or distribution grid.

Intermediate load:  The range from base load to a point between base load and peak. This point may be the midpoint, a percent of the peak load, or the load over a specified time period.

Peak clipping: The reduction of utility loads during peak demand periods.

Peak load:  The maximum load during a specified period of time.

Power Supply

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

       Direct current (DC):  An electric current that flows in one direction.

Radiant energy:  Energy that transmits away from its source in all directions.


Energy Measurement Terms

British thermal unit (Btu):  The quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of liquid water by 1 degree Fahrenheit at the temperature at which water has its greatest density (approximately 39 degrees Fahrenheit).

Gigawatthour (GWh):  One billion watt-hours.

Kilowatthour (kWh):  A measure of electricity defined as a unit of work or energy, measured as 1 kilowatt (1,000watts) of power expended for 1 hour. One kWh is equivalent to 3,412 Btu.

Megawatthour (MWh):  One thousand kilowatt-hours or 1 million watt-hours.

Mcf:   one thousand cubic feet


Types of Generation

Black Start:  The process of restoring a power station to operation without relying on the external electric power transmission network.

Coal gasification:  The process of converting coal into gas.

Cogenerator:  A generating facility that produces electricity and another form of useful thermal energy (such as heat or steam), used for industrial, commercial, heating, or cooling purposes.

Condenser cooling water:  A source of water external to a boiler’s feed system is passed through the steam leaving the turbine in order to cool and condense the steam. This reduces the steam’s exit pressure and recaptures its heat, which is then used to preheat fluid entering the boiler, thereby increasing the plant’s thermodynamic efficiency.

Dispatching:  The operating control of an integrated electric system involving operations such as (1) the assignment of load to specific generating stations and other sources of supply to effect the most economical supply as the total or the significant area loads rise or fall (2) the control of operations and maintenance of high-voltage lines, substations, and equipment; (3) the operation of principal tie lines and switching; (4) the scheduling of energy transactions with connecting electric utilities.

Emergency backup generation:  The use of electric generators only during interruptions of normal power supply.

Independent power producer (IPP):  A corporation, person, agency, authority, or other legal entity or instrumentality that owns or operates facilities for the generation of electricity for use primarily by the public, and that is not an electric utility.

Merchant plant: A plant independently owned (not by a utility).

Peak load plant:  A plant usually housing old, low-efficiency steam units, gas turbines, diesels, or pumped-storage hydroelectric equipment normally used during the peak-load periods.

Self-Generator:  A plant whose primary product is not electric power, but does generate electricity for its own use or for sale on the grid; for example, industrial combined heat and power plants.

Spinning reserve:  That reserve generating capacity running at a zero load and synchronized to the electric system.

Standby electricity generation:  Involves use of generators during times of high demand on utilities to avoid extra “peak-demand” charges.



Demand interval:  The time period during which flow of electricity is measured (usually in 15-, 30-, or 60-minute increments.)

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

Electricity demand:  The rate at which energy is delivered to loads and scheduling points by generation, transmission, and distribution facilities.

Net Meter:  The amount of gross generation less the electrical energy consumed at the generating station(s) for station service or auxiliaries. Generated Energy – Energy Consumed = Energy returned to system

Smart Meter: A meter that records electric consumption in intervals and sends the information to the utility.

Time of Use Metering (TOU): A meter that registers use by time.


Forms of Utilities

Holding company:  A company that confines its activities to owning stock in and supervising management of other companies.

Investor-owned utility (IOU):  A privately-owned electric utility whose stock is publicly traded. It is rate regulated and authorized to achieve an allowed rate of return.

Local distribution company (LDC):  A legal entity engaged primarily in the retail sale and/or delivery of natural gas through a distribution system that includes main lines (that is, pipelines designed to carry large volumes of gas, usually located under roads or other major right-of-ways) and laterals (that is, pipelines of smaller diameter that connect the end user to the mainline)

Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO): An RTO that provides open-access transmission service and monitors the high voltage transmission system.

Municipal waste to energy project or plant:  A facility that produces fuel or energy from municipal solid waste.

Regional Transmission Organization (RTO):  A utility industry concept that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) embraced for the certification of voluntary groups that would be responsible for transmission planning and use on a regional basis.

Retail Choice:  The right of customers to purchase energy from a supplier other than their traditional supplier or from more than one seller in the retail market.

Retail Electric Provider:  An electric entity that provides service to a retail or end-use customer.

Rural Electrification Administration (REA):  A lending agency of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the rea makes self-liquidating loans to qualified borrowers to finance electric and telephone service to rural areas.



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