Energy Terms 101: Glossary of Utility Company Phrases & Acronyms

From technology to environmental concerns, if you follow the news then you’ll encounter many energy terms. Going green. Sustainability. Demand response. Virtual power plants. OEMs. Grid flexibility. EVs and the EV charging needs will radically reshape the grid. That list of terms and acronyms goes on and on for the energy industry. You may be a seasoned utility and energy professional and already know what each term and acronym means, or you could be a newbie to the utility industry like myself. Whatever the case, let’s take a look at our list of energy terms, the kinds of words and acronyms that are increasingly easy to encounter!

Power, Energy, and Utility Industry Terminology

  • Balancing the grid – The act of ensuring that power is evenly distributed throughout a grid, as any imbalance in that equilibrium could lead to outages or brownout events.
  • Baseload – The minimum amount of power needed within a given timeframe.
  • Battery storage – Any battery device that can store energy for later use.
  • Behind the meter – Devices like DERS that produced or store energy that is on the consumer side of the meter.
  • Blackout – A large-scale interruption to electricity.
  • Brownout – An interruption to electrical services when the demand for electricity is beyond what the utility can produce. In these situations, utilities can purposely throttle the flow of electricity at a low voltage to prevent a total blackout and decrease the overall electrical demand on the grid.
  • Charging station – Locations to charge EVs. There are residential and commercial charging stations: Residential charging stations are for EV owners and are built to be installed at homes; charging stations are built in public locations such as malls, grocery stores, and large office complexes.
  • Climate anxiety – A phrase that describes the sociological and psychological impact of climate change.
  • Co-op Utility – A member-owned utility service, typically providing electricity in rural settings. Cooperatives focus on providing electricity as a service to their members and customers and focus less on profit. Co-ops were originally formed by rural residents when larger utilities refused to distribute electricity to rural areas due to the level of effort and cost.
  • Daily load curve – Electricity usage is never consistent in any given timeframe. The variations in load can be plotted on an hourly basis and the curve on the plot is the daily load curve. This curve offers power plants insights into load usage at various points in the day.
  • Decarbonize – Reducing the emission of carbon dioxide.
  • Demand Flexibility – Any action taken by a utility company that addresses energy needs in the moment or throughout a set period is demand flexibility. This includes, but is not limited to demand response.
  • Demand Forecasting – A tool used by utilities to determine how much demand may be needed that can help with demand event preplanning and energy purchasing.
  • Demand Response – Changes in electrical usage during peak periods that alleviate grid loads and help maintain electrical reliability. Utilities are increasingly turning to demand response technology and are offering demand response programs for consumers to participate in, like smart thermostat programs, EV charging programs, and smart meters.
  • Distributed Energy Resource (DER) – Distributed energy resources (DERs) are personal devices that produce and store energy like solar panels, batteries, wind power, and more.
  • Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) – Distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) are the governing software that manages both demand response and distributed energy resource programs.
  • Duck Curve –  A graphical display that illustrates the imbalance between peak demand and renewable energy production.
  • Electrification – The process of replacing technologies reliant on fossil fuels with electric-powered alternatives. (see: EVs)
  • Energy efficiency – Being energy efficient means reducing wasted energy.
  • Energy storage – Any capture of generated energy for use at a later time.
  • Electric vehicle – Increasing in popularity, electrical vehicles (EVs) are vehicles that are powered by electricity, not gas.
  • FERC 2222 – An acronym for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC 2222 permits DERs to compete with standard electric markets, which were previously prevented by regional grid operators.
  • Generators – Power plants that generate electricity.
  • Greenhouse effects – The greenhouse effect refers to greenhouse gases, which can become trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere further exasperating climate change.
  • Grid – The grid (also referred to as the electrical grid) is a combination of the infrastructure and distribution of electricity.
  • Grid Edge technology – Technologies and business models for a decentralized, distributed, and transactive energy grid that includes physical assets (e.g., smart meters or water heaters), network or control software, applications, and tools for data analytics.
  • Grid reliability – The reliability of the electrical grid at any given time. As climate change has progressed in recent years, the grid has become more vulnerable.
  • Grid Services – The array of interconnected and often disparate technologies necessary to maintain the grid.
  • Incentive processing – The ability of a utility to process the incentives they offer to their customers for demand response programs. Incentives can include things like rebates on devices such as smart thermostats, eGift cards, billing credits, or carbon offsets.
  • Inverter – A device that converts the direct current (DC) generated by solar energy to the alternating current (AC) that is used by the grid.
  • Investment Tax Credit – A U.S. federal tax break to encourage homeowners to invest in solar panels.
  • Investor-Owned Utility – An IOU is a privately owned utility that has a monopoly within a set area or service territory.
  • Kilowatt – The measure of power.
  • Load – The amount of electricity used on the grid at one time. It can also be referred to as demand.
  • Load shifting – Load shifting is moving electricity consumption from one time of the day to another to avoid purchasing more expensive (and often “dirtier”) power at peak times of the day.
  • Microgrid – A small, independent power network that uses local, distributed energy resources to provide grid backup or off-grid power to meet local electricity needs.
  • Municipality – A utility that is owned and operated by the local government.
  • Net Metering – a policy that pays prosumers to purchase the excess energy generated by their distributed energy resources.
  • Net-zero – The act of balancing your greenhouse emissions against what you’ve removed from the atmosphere.
  • Peak load – Peak load is the highest amount of energy that a consumer draws from the grid in a set period of time.
  • Peaker plant – A specialized power plant that is only used when the grid is reaching maximum capacity.
  • Peak reduction – Peak reduction refers to the various means of lowering energy needs during peak demand to better balance the grid.
  • Power outage – The loss of power.
  • Program Design – A description of how each demand program is organized and employed.
  • Prosumer – A prosumer is a consumer with a personal interest in renewable energy technologies that generate or store electricity to power their home.
  • Public Utility Commission – The PUC regulates the rates imposed by utility companies on their customers.
  • Ratepayers – Utility customers who pay for electricity and gas based on a defined rate. In recent years, utility companies have made a strategic shift away from using this term to a phrasing that is more customer-centric.
  • Renewable energy – Renewable energy comes in many forms, like solar and wind. It can also be referred to as clean energy.
  • Renewable energy standards – RES are goals or standards that are imposed on utilities to source renewable energy sources. The standards vary from state to state.
  • Rolling blackouts – A deliberate process by utilities to prevent large-scale blackouts by relieving the demand on the grid in specific areas.
  • Snap Back – The spike in energy usage after a demand response event ends.
  • State of Charge – The level of charge of an EV battery relative to its capacity.
  • Solar – A renewable energy source, solar is one of the most abundant power sources on the planet. Solar energy comes from the sun and can be captured and converted into usable electricity using solar panels.
  • Solar-Plus-Storage – The battery that stores personal solar energy for later use.
  • Time-of-Use – A metering system that is used to determine how much to charge during peak times of consumption.
  • Telematics – Telematics refers to the communication of data between a data center and an electric vehicle (EV) via cellular networks, including sending control commands and charging session data. See also: EV Telematics
  • Utility – The company that owns the distribution process of electricity and gas to its customers. In the U.S., there are three main types of utilities: IOUs, municipalities, and co-ops.

Power, Energy, and Utility Acronyms Explained

  • ADMS – Advanced distribution management system
  • AMI – Advanced metering infrastructure
  • BEV – Battery electric vehicle
  • BYOD – Bring your own device
  • BYOB – Bring your own battery
  • C&I – Commercial and industrial
  • DER – Distributed energy resource
  • DERMS – Distributed energy management systems
  • DOE – Department of Energy
  • DR – Demand response
  • EV – Electric vehicle
  • G&T – Generation and transmission
  • HEMS – Home energy management systems
  • IOUs – Investor-owned utilities
  • IPP – Independent Power Producers
  • IWPP – Independent Water & Power Producers
  • kW – Kilowatt
  • kWh – Kilowatt-hour
  • MISO – Midcontinent Independent System Operator
  • Muni – Municipality
  • M&V – Measurement, and verification
  • OEM – Original equipment manufacturer
  • PEV – Plug-in electric vehicle
  • PUC – Public Utility Commission
  • RES – Renewable energy standards
  • RET – Renewable energy target
  • VGI – Vehicle-Grid Integration
  • VPP – Virtual power plant
  • V2X – Vehicle to everything
  • V2G – Vehicle-to-grid
  • T&D – Transmission & Distribution
  • TOU – Time-of-use

Energy Terms Conclusion

With so many energy terms and acronyms out there, it’s easy to forget one. Did we miss a utility term or acronym in the lists above? We want to know! Let us know what we need to add in the comments below.

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About The Author
Amber Mullaney blog author

With more than fifteen years of leadership, growth marketing, and communication experience, Amber Mullaney drives the strategy behind Virtual Peaker's marketing initiatives. A proud Texan native, she graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Public Relations and Interpersonal Communication. She is passionate and experienced in managing brands, product lines, marketing programs, and driving cross-functional teams.

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