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The Library

Definitions of Commonly Used Electric Terms

A-C  | D-F | G-L | M-Q | R-S | T-Z

Access Charge

A charge or fee for the customer's use of a utility's transmission or distribution system. It is a delivery charge paid to the local distribution company.


A person or group that pools customers into a buying group for the purpose of increasing purchasing power. Retailers, customers, and brokers may also act as aggregators.

Alternative Electric Supplier

A supplier of electricity that owns or has title to electric generation and is not the company providing electric distribution and transmission services to the customer

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Direct Access

The ability of a retail customer to purchase electricity from another supplier and then have the local distribution company deliver the power over its transmission and distribution system for a fee. (a.k.a. retail open access, open access).

Electric Cooperative

A member-owned electric utility company that generates and purchases wholesale power, arranges the transmission of that power, and then distributes the power to serve the demand of rural customers on a non-profit basis.

Electric Generation

The process of producing electricity from other forms of energy.

Electric System

A term used to describe electric transmission and distribution as one complete system.

Electricity Generator

 A producer and operator of an electric power generating plant.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

An independent regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that has jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales, wholesale electricity rates, gas/oil pipeline rates, and gas pipeline certification. It also licenses and inspects private, municipal and state hydroelectric projects and oversees related environmental matters.

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Green Power

 Electricity that is produced from environmentally-cleaner sources than traditional electricity. Green power is usually defined as renewable energy that comes from sources like wind, solar, biomass energy, etc.

Kilowatt (kW)

This is equal to 1,000 watts; it is used as a measure of demand for electricity during a preset time (minutes, hours, days, or months). A 100-watt light bulbs that burns for 10 hours uses one kW of electricity.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh)

The basic unit of electric energy for which most customers are charged. The amount of electricity used by ten 100-watt light bulbs left on for one hour. Consumers are charged for electricity in cents per kilowatt-hour.

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The amount of electricity being used at one time by a customer, circuit or system.

Load management

Shifting of electricity use from periods of high demand to periods of low demand.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides financial assistance with fuel costs and restoration of utility services during the winter heating season to eligible low-income households. Assistance to income-eligible homeowners and landlords to repair or replace furnaces to become more energy efficient is also available. 

LIHEAP and its related services help over 90,000 Wisconsin households annually. In addition to regular heating assistance, specialized services include:

Emergency fuel assistance,
Counseling for energy conservation and energy budgets,
Pro-active co-payment plans,
Targeted outreach services,
Emergency furnace repair and replacement

See also:  Federal Poverty Income Guidelines

Portable Generator

A backup source of electricity in the event of a power outage.

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The process of separating utilities into their separate functions -- transmission, distribution, generation, and services -- and resulting in continued regulation of distribution and transmission services and a competitive market for electricity supply.


An alternate supplier of electricity, such as an aggregator or independent power producer, that owns or has title to electric generation.

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Time-of-Use Meter

A meter that measures how much electricity a customer uses during a specific time of the day and in total.

Time-of-Use Rates

Rates charged to customers based on when they use electricity during the day and how much electricity they use.

Treble Damages

Under Wisconsin law, a utility may sue a customer for three times the amount of the bill if customer had the ability to pay the energy bill but did not during the winter.  This is called treble damages.  It is in addition to the money owed for the bill itself.  The ability to pay is measured as being over 250% of the Federal Poverty Level.

Unbundled Services

Electricity services specified line by line on your bill, such as separate delivery and supply charges, instead of one "bundled" service and charge.


This is a measure of the amount of electricity needed to power a device such as a light bulb.

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