of Co-op Industry Terms
adapted from Use or Usage: A Rural Electric Guide to Style)
ACRE: Action Committee for Rural
Electrification. A political action committee that gives financial
support to national candidates who are supportive of electric
All-requirement power contract: An
agreement by which a distribution system agrees to purchase all of its
wholesale electric power from a single power supplier; primarily used by
rural and municipal systems.
Alternating current: A flow of
electricity through a conductor that continuously reverses its direction
of flow, in contrast to direct current (DC). Nearly all electricity
generated in the United States is alternating current.
Amphere (amp): A measure of how much
electricity is moving through a conductor. Amperas equal watts divided
by volts; a 1,000-watt heater at 120 volts draws 8.33 amps. The term is
commonly used to indicate the size of circuit breakers and fuses.
Annual meeting: Once-a-year gathering of
members held according to a cooperative's bylaws for the purpose of
electing directors and conducting other business.
Base load: The minimum amount of electric power
delivered or required from a generating system over a specified period
of time; usually measured in megawatts.
Base rate: The portion of the total electric
rate that covers the cost of doing business unrelated to fuel expenses.
Brownout: A small, temporary voltage reduction
implemented by a utility to conserve electric power during periods of
Bylaws: Rules for operating a cooperative
approved by the membership.
Capacity: The electric load, measured in
watts or kilowatts of a piece of electrical equipment or system. Also
Capital credits: Margins or profits
credited to members of a cooperative based on their purchase from the
cooperative. Used by cooperative as working capital for a period of
time, then paid back to the membership. Also called patronage capital or
Certified Rural Electric Communicator: A
person who has completed a professional certification program for rural
CFC: National Rural Utilities
Cooperative Finance Corporation.
Circuit: A conductor, such as wire,
through which electric current flows.
Clean Air Act: A national law passed in
1963 and amended several times since, giving the U.S. government broad
powers to limit air pollution.
Cooperative: A member-owned business
with membership open to those who use its services. Democratically
controlled and operated on a non-profit basis, a cooperative returns any
margins or profits to members on the basis of patronage.
Cooperative Month: An annual October
commemoration of the importance of cooperative organizations.
Cost of service: The cost of providing a
consumer-member with electric service, not including the cost of
Current: A flow of electrically charged
particles. The unit of measurement is the ampere.
Demand: The amount of electricity drawn
from an electric system at any given time, measured in kilowatts.
Department of Energy: The U.S. agency
responsible for planning and allocating the nation's energy needs.
Deregulation: Major reduction of
government oversight in a segment of private industry.
Distribution system: The poles, wires,
and transformers used to deliver electric energy from a bulk power
supplier to the consumer.
Easement: An agreement allowing a
utility to use property belonging to another individual or organization
for a specific purpose, such as building a transmission line.
Economic Regulatory Administration (ERA): Administers
regulatory programs for the Department of Energy, except those assigned
to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It oversees oil-pricing,
allocation and import of programs designed to ensure price stability and
equitable supplies of crude oil, petroleum products and natural-gas
Eminent domain: The power of a
government body to condemn and use private property for public use after
paying the property owner; sometimes used as a last resort by power
companies constructing power lines.
Energy: The capacity for doing work; may
be natural or manufactured.
Energy efficiency rating (EER): A
measure of how efficiently an appliance uses energy. Determined by
dividing the Btu per hour output by the number of watts used. A higher
EER means greater efficiency.
FERC: Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission. Formed in 1977 to set and enforce the wholesale
rates that investor-owned utilities charge rural electric cooperatives
and other wholesale customers.
Fossil fuel: Materials such as coal, oil or natural gas used
to produce heat or power; also called conventional fuels. These
materials were formed in the ground millions of years ago from plant and
Fuel adjustment clause: A correction or
modification of a consumer's monthly electric bill caused by an increase
or decrease in the cost of an electric utility's fuel supply. Also
called power-cost adjustment.
Fuel cost: The total cost of fuel
delivered to a power plant, including freight and other transportation
charges, unloading costs and maintenance and mine reclamation
G&T: Generation and transmission
cooperative. A power-supply cooperative (such as ODEC)
owned by a group of distribution cooperatives. G&Ts generate power
or purchase it from public- or investor-owned utilities, or from
Generation plant: A plant that has
generators and other equipment for producing electricity.
Gigawatts (gw): A measure of electric
capacity equal to 1 billion watts or 1 million kilowatts.
Grid: A system of interconnected
high-voltage transmission lines and power-generating facilities that
allows bulk-power suppliers to share resources on a regional basis. This
system provides emergency generation and transmission.
Heat pump: A system supplying both
heating and cooling to a structure by moving heat into or out of the
High voltage: Voltage in a power line
higher than the 110 to 220 volts used in most residences.
Industrial rate: A special rate for
industrial customers of electric cooperatives.
Insulators: Support electric wires and
prevent undesired flow of electricity; usually made of glass or
Investor-owned utility (IOU): A
stockholder-owned power company that generates and distributes electric
energy for a profit.
Journeyman lineworker: A non-sexist
replacement term for journeyman lineman.
Journeyman lineman: An electrical
lineworker who has completed apprenticeship training and has learned the
Kilowatt (kw): The basic unit of
electric demands, equal to 1,000 watts; the average household demand is
10 to 20 kilowatts.
Kilowatt-hour (kwh): A unit of
energy or work equal to 1,000 watt-hours. The basic measure of electric
energy generation or use.
Line: A carrier of electricity on an
electric power system.
Lineman: A person who builds and
maintains electric lines.
Load: The amount of electric power drawn
at a specific time from an electric system, or the total power drawn
from the system.
Load factor: The ratio of average demand
to peak demand. It is a measure of efficiency that indicates whether a
system's electrical use over a period of time is reasonably stable
or if it has extreme peaks and valleys.
Loop transmission system: An electric
distribution system that allows consumers to receive electricity from
more than one direction, allowing a backup in case of an outage.
Marginal-cost pricing: A method of determining the selling
price of a commodity when the fixed costs are paid by units already sold
so that the next units can be sold for less.
Margin: The difference between a cooperative's income and its
expenses; returned to members in the form of capital credits as the
cooperative's financial status allows.
Meter: A device used to measure and record the amount of
electricity used by a consumer.
Meter tampering: The unlawful and dangerous practice of
interfering with the operation of a meter, generally to avoid paying for
Municipal: Electric distribution system owned by a city to
provide service for its residents.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association: The
Washington, D.C.-based national service organization representing
electric cooperatives in the United States.
Natural gas: A fossil fuel used for electric generation and
Non-profit: Business not entered into for the purpose of
Nuclear fusion: The combination of two light nuclei to form a
heavier nucleus with the release of some binding energy.
NUTSEA: National Utility Training and Safety Education
Off-peak power: Electricity supplied during periods of low
On line: A generating plant that is operating. When an
operational plant is not on line, it is "down."
Outage: Interruption of service to an electric consumer
because a power plant, transmission line or other facility is not
Peak demand: The greatest demand placed on an electric system;
measured in kilowatts or megawatts; also, the time of day or season of
the year when that demand occurs.
Peaking unit: Part of an electric generating plant used only
at high-use periods to provide sufficient electric capacity for the
system to meet its peak demand.
Powerhouse: An electrical generating station.
Power theft: Tampering with a meter to lower electric bills; a
dangerous and illegal act.
Radiator: A device that transfers heat to the air in a room.
Rate of return: The percentage of a profit a utility may earn
from its electric rates; generally, it applies only to investor-owned
utilities regulated by a state agency.
Regulation: A government's legal right to govern
Right of way: Use of property covered by an agreement that
allows utilities to construct and operate their facilities there.
Sometimes acquired through the right of eminent domain.
Rural Electrification Act: Legislation that established the
Rural Electrification Administration in 1936 as a lending agency for
Rural electrification: A term used to describe the
introduction of electricity to rural areas not served by power
companies until then.
R-value: A number showing the ability of insulation to resist
the transfer of heat. Higher R-values indicate more efficient
SCADA: Substation Control and Data Acquisition.
Single-phase power: An electric circuit that consists of one
Slag: A residue produced by the combustion of coal.
Statewide Organization: A service organization for electric
cooperatives in one or more states. See Virginia,
Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.
Substation: An electrical facility containing equipment for
controlling the flow of electricity from supplier to user.
Surge suppressor: An electronic device that protects equipment
from short-term, high- voltage flows of electricity such as lightening
Synthetic fuel: A source of energy created by changing the
molecular structure of hard-to-use fuel to a more usable state.
System demand: The total amount of energy required to supply
Three-phase power: An electric circuit that consists of three
separate currents delivered at one-third cycle intervals by means of a
Time-of-use metering: Measures both electric use and time of
Transformer: A device used to raise or lower voltage in
electric distribution or transmission lines.
Transmission line: The poles, lines, and conductors used to
move bulk electricity from a generating plant to a substation.
Turbine: Converts the energy of moving water, steam or air to
rotation, which can then be used to power a generator.
U - Z
Utility: A cooperative or company that provides electricity,
water or gas for residential and commercial use.
Voltage: Potential electric energy.
Watt (w): The standard unit of electric power, named for James
Watt, a 19th-century Scottish engineer.
Wholesale customer: A power purchaser that buys for resale to