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. 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

  • Baseload – The minimum amount of power needed within a given timeframe.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Decarbonize – Reducing the emission of carbon dioxide.
  • Demand Response – Changes in electrical usage during peak periods to alleviate taxing the grid and helping 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.
  • Energy efficiency – Being energy efficient means reducing wasted energy.
  • Electric vehicle – Increasing in popularity, electrical vehicles (EVs) are vehicles that are powered by electricity, not gas.
  • Generators – Power plants that generate electricity.
  • 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.
  • 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, eGiftcards, billing credits, or carbon offsets.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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-zero – The act of balancing your greenhouse emissions against what you’ve removed from the atmosphere.
  • Peaker plant – A specialized power plant that is only used when the grid is reaching maximum capacity.
  • Power outage – The loss of power.
  • 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 be 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.
  • 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.
  • Time-of-Use – A metering system used to determine how much to charge during peak times of consumption.
  • 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

  • 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
  • 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
  • VPP – Virtual power plant
  • 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.

About The Author

With more than a decade 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 at managing brands, product lines, marketing programs, and driving cross-functional teams.

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