Glossary

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Base charge A flat fee on your electric bill, applied each month regardless of the amount of kilowatt hour (kWh) used.

Base rate A fixed kilowatt-hour charge for electricity consumed that is independent of other charges and/or adjustments.

Building envelope The structural elements (walls, roof, floor, foundation) of a building that encloses conditioned space; the building shell.

Circuit The complete path electricity follows from a source through a connection to an output device. For example: A circuit can be made from a battery (source) through a copper wire (connection) to a light bulb (output device) and back to the battery.

CFL (compact fluorescent light bulb) A fluorescent lamp compressed into the size of a standard-issue incandescent light bulb that’s designed as an energy-efficient replacement. Compared to incandescent lamps that produce the same amount of visible light, CFLs typically last at least six times as long and use at most a quarter of the energy of an equivalent incandescent bulb. Conductor An object that permits an electric charge to flow easily. Examples of conductors are metal, salt, water and wool.

Connection fee A fee charged to connect and start electric service at a particular address.

Customer choice/electricity choice In deregulated retail electricity markets like Texas, customer choice means you can choose a Retail Electricity Provider (REP) and an electricity plan to meet your specific needs. While just one company maintains the poles and wires that deliver your electricity; many companies compete to sell the electricity that runs over the poles and wires. As a result, you benefit from competitive rates, better product options and greater customer service.

Delivery charge A fee charged to cover the cost of delivering electricity to your home.

Disconnect/reconnect fee A fee charged by the transmission and distribution service provider (TDSP) to disconnect or reconnect electric service.

Distributed renewable generation (DRG) A program for customers who own small-scale renewable power systems, such as solar panels, and who want to sell excess power back to their electricity company.

Electric current A measure of the amount of electrical charge transferred per unit. It represents the flow of electrons through a conductive material. A common unit of current 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 kilowatt hours.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) The state’s largest electricity management agency that oversees the electric grid, which receives electricity from power generators and distributes it to homes and businesses using electric utilities. ERCOT serves 23 million Texas customers, representing 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of the state’s land area.

Electric service identifier (ESID) The unique identifier created for your meter by your transmission distribution service provider. Think of it like an IP address for your meter.

Electric utility An electric power company, often a public utility, which engages in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.

Electrical grid A network of transmission lines, substations and transformers that delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers.

Electricity The supply of electric currents to a house or other building for heating, lighting or powering appliances.

Electricity demand The amount of electricity being consumed at any given time. Demand rises and falls throughout the day in response to the time of day and other environmental factors.

Electricity deregulation In deregulated retail electricity markets like Texas, electricity deregulation means you can choose a Retail Electricity Provider and an electricity plan that meet your specific needs. While just one company maintains the poles and wires that deliver your electricity; many companies compete to sell the electricity that runs over the poles and wires. As a result, you benefit from competitive rates, better product options and greater customer service.

Electricity facts label (EFL) A standardized format document required by the Public Utility Commission of Texas that provides customers with disclosure information on a retail electricity provider’s prices, contracts, sources of power generation and emissions.

Electricity generation The process of producing electricity or the amount of electricity produced by transforming other forms of energy, commonly expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh) or megawatt hours (MWh).
Electricity usage On your electricity bill, this is the amount of electricity used in a billing cycle, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

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

Energy audit A review of your home or place of business to find out how much energy you are using and identify ways to reduce energy usage. The audit could be performed in person or by reviewing energy usage data for your residence or business property.

Energy charge A portion of your total charge for electricity service; the total number of kilowatt-hours consumed within the billing cycle times the price you pay per kWh.

Energy efficiency Using less energy to provide the same level of performance, comfort and convenience. The goal of energy efficiency is to reduce energy use, which may result in cost savings and less impact to the environment.

EnergyGuide Label Yellow and black labels found on appliances that can help you compare the energy use of similar models while you shop. The Federal Trade Commission’s Appliance Labeling Rule requires appliance manufacturers to put these labels on:

  • Refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, televisions
  • Water heaters, furnaces, boilers
  • Central air conditioners, room air conditioners, heat pumps
  • Pool heaters

Energy service provider An energy entity that provides service to a retail or end-use customer. Also known as a Retail Electricity Provider.

Energy source The primary source of providing power. The energy could be converted to electricity through chemical, mechanical or other means. Common energy sources include coal, petroleum, gas, water, uranium, wind, sunlight, geothermal, etc.

ENERGY STAR® ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps individuals and businesses save money and protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. Products that earn the ENERGY STAR label are independently certified to save energy without sacrificing features of functionality.

ESI I.D. (electric service identifier) A unique 17- or 22-digit number number in the ERCOT market given to an electricity delivery point by the TDSP. You can find this number on your electricity bill.

Fixed rate You pay a certain rate for electricity, usually per kilowatt hour (kWh), each billing cycle. On a fixed rate plan, the rate will stay the same for the duration of your contract. Variable rate plans could change the rate from one billing cycle to the next.

Fossil fuel A natural fuel formed in the earth from plant or animal remains, such as petroleum, coal and natural gas.
Fuel Any substance that can be consumed to produce energy.

Generation The production of electricity. In Texas, electricity is produced by a number of methods, including natural gas, coal, nuclear power, wind, water and solar energy.

Generator A machine that converts mechanical energy into electricity to serve as a power source for other machines. Electrical generators found in power plants use water turbines, combustion engines, windmills or other sources of mechanical energy to spin wire coils in strong magnetic fields, including an electric potential in the coils.

Geothermal energy Energy obtained by tapping underground reservoirs of heat, usually near volcanoes or other hot spots on the surface of the Earth.

Kilowatt (kW) A standard unit that measures electrical energy (1,000 watts = 1 kW).

Kilowatt hour (kWh) A unit or measure of electricity supply or consumption equaling 1,000 watts operating for one hour. Ex: 1 kWh = ten 100 watt bulbs all burning at the same time for one hour; 10 bulbs x 100 watts each x 1 hour = 1 kWh

Local wires company The company that transmits and delivers electricity to a customer’s home or business along the electrical poles and wires. The local wires company is responsible for maintenance and repair of these poles and wires and is also referred to as the Transmission and Distribution Service Provider (TDSP).

Lumens A unit of measurement of light energy. Specifically, lumens measure the amount of light a lamp produces in all directions.

Meter A device that measures the amount of electrical energy consumed by a residence, business or an electrically powered device. Power companies read meters to determine how much electricity each customer used. Types of electricity meters include digital meters and smart meters.

Nuclear power The energy produced by splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor.

Off peak A period of relatively low system demand for electricity. These periods often occur in daily, weekly and seasonal patterns. The use of smart meter technology has allowed electricity companies to offer new products that take advantage of off-peak pricing periods

On peak Periods of relatively high system demand for electricity. These periods often occur in daily, weekly and seasonal patterns.

Portable generator Portable generators provide a source of backup power during a power outage. Types of portable generators include natural gas fueled, propane fueled and gasoline fueled.

Prepaid plans Prepaid electricity plans provide electricity service on a pay-as-you-go basis. These plans offer customers the freedom to decide how much electricity to purchase, as opposed to a traditional plan that delivers a bill at the end of a billing cycle. Customers can choose to make recurring payments and avoid any worries about dwindling account balances.

Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) The state agency responsible for the regulation and oversight of electricity and local telecommunication services in Texas. Under electricity choice, the PUC regulates the delivery of electricity and enforces customer protections.

Rate The amount you pay for your electricity is the rate, and it is usually an amount per kilowatt hour (kWh).

Renewable energy Electricity made from resources that rely on fuel sources that restore themselves over short periods of time. These fuel sources include the sun, wind, moving water, organic plant and waste material (biomass), and the earth’s heat (geothermal).

Retail electric provider (REP) In Texas, a REP is a company that sells electricity to consumers and is responsible for sending a monthly electricity bill.

Solar power Heat radiation from the sun that is converted into electrical power.

Smart energy The term smart energy comes from the philosophy of using the most cost-effective approach to meeting your electricity needs while maintaining the lowest environmental impact.  Innovative and insightful plans, products and services that put customers with smart meters in control of their electricity use

Smart meter A type of electricity meter that has continuously available, remote, two-way communication and information storage capability. Smart meters record and store your electrical usage in 15-minute intervals and communicate that usage information back to your local wires company. Unlike traditional electric meters that only measure total consumption, smart meters show when the energy was consumed.

Thermal A rising air current caused by heating from the underlying surface.

Transformer A device used to transfer electric energy from one circuit to another.

Transmission and distribution service provider (TDSP) The local wires company responsible for the poles and wires that transmit and deliver electricity to your home or business. TDSPs are responsible for the maintenance and repair of these poles and wires.

Usage The amount of electricity you used during a specified billing period listed in kilowatt-hours (kWh). This is listed on your electric bill as kWh used.

Variable rate With a variable rate electricity plan, the rate you pay may go up or down depending on the monthly changes in the marketplace.

Volt A unit that measures the force used to produce an electric current. Also the push or force that moves electric current through a conductor.

Watt A unit that measures electric power. 1 kW = 1,000 watts. 1 Megawatt (MW) = 1,000,000 watts

Whole house generators Whole house generators are a permanent solution to avoid the threat of a power outage. Whole house (or standby) generators require professional installation.

Wind power A form of energy conversion in which turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into electrical energy that can be used for power.

Wind turbine A device that converts kinetic energy from the wind, also called wind energy, into mechanical energy in a process known as wind power.

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