Speaking Your PUD’s Language

Whether you are sitting in a Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners meeting, or talking with a PUD employee, chances are there may hear a term or an acronym that is unfamiliar to you. Below is a list of definitions for commonly used terms and acronyms. While we will always try to avoid using “industry speak” with our customers, this list may be helpful as you strive to learn more about your PUD.



Active Heating System
A solar water or space-heating system that moves heated air or water using pumps or fans.
Alternating Current
An electric current that reverses its direction at regular intervals or cycles; In the U.S. the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second; typically abbreviated as AC.
American Public Power Association A non-profit organization representing over 1,750 publicly owned utilities in the U.S. and its territories. Services to members include lobbying before Congress, representation with the Executive Branch and regulatory agencies, publication of a magazine and newsletter, a library, programs in safety, maintenance of technical committees, continuing education, and research and development.
Average Megawatts
The average number of megawatt-hours, not megawatts, over a specified time period. For example, over the course of one year, an average megawatt is equal to 8,760 megawatt-hours, or 24 hours x 365 days x 1 megawatt.


A power plant that is planned to run continually except for maintenance and scheduled or unscheduled outages. Baseload also refers to the minimum load in a power system over a given period of time.
An energy storage device made up of one or more electrolyte cells.
Refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. In this context, biomass refers to plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce.
The disconnection of the source of electricity serving an area brought about by an emergency forced outage or other fault in the generation, transmission or distribution system.
British thermal unit (BTU)
The amount of heat energy necessary to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit (3,412 BTUs are equal to one kilowatt-hour).
The partial reduction of electrical voltages. A brownout results in lights dimming and motor-driven devices slowing down.
Bypass system
Structure in a dam that routes fish around rather than through the turbines.
BLM Bureau of Land Management
Responsible for managing 284 million acres of public lands located primarily in the far west and Alaska.
Bonneville Power Administration (BP)
The sole federal power-marketing agency in the Northwest and the region’s major wholesaler of electricity.


The maximum power that can be produced by a generating resource at specified times under specified conditions.
A conductor or a system of conductors through which electric current flows.
Climate Change
A term used to refer to all forms of climatic inconsistency, but especially to significant change from one prevailing climatic condition to another. In some cases, "climate change" has been used synonymously with the term "global warming"; scientists, however, tend to use the term in a wider sense inclusive of natural changes in climate, including climatic cooling.
A pipe that contains wire or cable.
Corps of Engineers
An agency of the U.S. Army with the responsibility of designing, constructing and operating civil works, including multipurpose dams and navigation projects.
The production of electrical energy and another form of useful energy (such as heat of steam) through the sequential use of energy.
Cost of service analysis
A study designed to determine the cost of providing service to various classes of customers; used as a basis for establishing rates.
CRITFC (Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission)
The federal law that sets regulatory standards for water pollution and cleanup, and requires pollution dischargers to obtain water quality permits that set emission limits. PUD hydroelectric and wastewater systems must obtain these permits.
Critical water
A sequence of streamflows under which the regional hydro system could produce an amount of power equal to that which could have been produced during the historical critical period given today's generating facilities and constraints.
Combustion turbine
A fuel-fired turbine engine used to drive an electric generator.


The rate at which electric energy is delivered to or by a system at a given instant or averaged over a designated period, usually expressed in kilowatts or megawatts.
Demand forecast
An estimate of the level of energy that is likely to be needed at some time in the future.
Demand-side management (DSM)
Strategies for reducing consumption by influencing when and how customers use electricity. Demand-side management includes such things as conservation programs and incentives for switching electricity use from mid-day to evening.
Direct Current (DC)
An electric current that flows in only one direction through a circuit, as from a battery.
The monitoring and regulation of an electrical system to provide coordinated operation; the sequence in which generating resources are called upon to generate power to serve fluctuating loads.
The substitution of less expensive energy generation for more expensive generation. Usually this means reducing or shutting down production at a thermal plant and using hydro power when it is available.
The transport of electricity to ultimate use points such as homes and businesses.
U.S. Department of Energy The federal agency that oversees the Bonneville Power Administration, the regulation of nuclear power reactors, and other aspects of the energy industry important to PUDs.


Electrical Energy
The energy associated with electric charges and their movements.
A form of energy characterized by the presence and motion of elementary charged particles generated by friction, induction, or chemical change.
Electricity Generation
The process of producing electric energy or the amount of electric energy produced by transforming other forms of energy, commonly expressed in kilowatthours (kWh) or megawatthours (MWh).
Electric Motor
A device that takes electrical energy and converts it into mechanical energy to turn a shaft.
Electric Power
The amount of energy produced per second. The power produced by an electric current.
The branch of chemistry that deals with the chemical changes produced by electricity and the production of electricity by chemical changes.
Having to do with magnetism produced by an electric current.
Energy Energy that travels in waves, such as ultra-violet radiation. It can be thought of as a combination of electric and magnetic energy.
A discharge or something that is given off; generally used in regard to discharges into the air. Or, releases of gases to the atmosphere from some type of human activity (cooking, driving a car, etc). In the context of global climate change, they consist of greenhouse gases (e.g., the release of carbon dioxide during fuel combustion).
The ability to do work or the ability to move an object. Electrical energy is usually measured in kilowatthours (kWh), while heat energy is usually measured in British thermal units (Btu).
Energy Consumption
The use of energy as a source of heat or power or as a raw material input to a manufacturing process.
Energy Efficiency
Refers to activities that are aimed at reducing the energy used by substituting technically more advanced equipment, typically without affecting the services provided. Examples include high-efficiency appliances, efficient lighting programs, high-efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or control modifications, efficient building design, advanced electric motor drives, and heat recovery systems.


A fault is an event in which a problem
Federal Energy Regulatory Agency(FERC)
The Federal government agency that regulates and oversees energy industries in the economic, environmental, and safety interests of the American public.
The fine metal wire in a light bulb that glows when heated by an electric current.
Firm Power
Electric power that is guaranteed by the supplier to be available during specified times except when uncontrollable forces produce outages. Firm power consists of either firm energy, firm capacity or both.
The process of estimating or calculating electricity load or resource production at some point in the future.
Used to protect an electrical system from excessive current by interrupting the flow of current.


Gas Turbine Plant
A plant in which the prime mover is a gas turbine. A gas turbine consists typically of an axial-flow air compressor and one or more combustion chambers where liquid or gaseous fuel is burned and the hot gases are passed to the turbine and where the hot gases expand drive the generator and are then used to run the compressor.
A device that turns mechanical energy into electrical energy. The mechanical energy is sometimes provided by an engine or turbine.
Generating Capacity
The amount of electrical power a power plant can produce.
The linking system of transmission lines, regionally and locally.


Energy that comes from moving water.


Investor-owned utility (IOU)
A utility that raises capital for system investment primarily through the sale of stock to investors.
Integrated resource planning (IRP)
Also known as Integrated Resource Management, a planning process for new energy resources that evaluates the full range of alternatives, in order to provide adequate and reliable service to its customers at the lowest system cost. The alternatives can include new generation capacity, power purchases, energy conservation and efficiency, cogeneration and renewable energy resources. In a restructured electric industry there may be no mechanism to continue this process.



A kilowatt represents 1,000 watts
Kilowatt Hour
A kilowatt hour is equal to the energy of 1,000 watts working for one hour. Kilowatt hours are determined by multiplying the number of kW's required by the number of hours of use. For example, if you use a 40-watt light bulb 5 hours a day, you have used 200 watt hours, or 0.2 kilowatt hours, of electrical energy


The amount of electric power delivered or required at a given point on a system.


A unit of electrical power equal to 1000 kilowatts or one million watts.
Megawatt-hour (Mwh)
A unit of electrical energy which equals one megawatt of power used for one hour.


Nameplate capacity (or installed capacity)
A measurement indicating the approximate generating capability of a project or unit, as designated by the manufacturer. In many cases, the unit is capable of generating substantially more than the nameplate capacity since most generators installed in newer hydroelectric plants have a continuous overload capacity of 115 percent of the nameplate capacity.
NMFS National Marine Fisheries Service
An agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It provides management, research, and services for the protection and rational use of living marine resources for their aesthetic, economic and recreational value.
Nonfirm energy
Energy that is not guaranteed to be continuously available. Nonfirm energy is available in varying amounts depending upon season and weather conditions.
NRECA National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
A private service association representing the national interest of nearly 1,000 electric utility cooperatives throughout the U.S. NRECA lobbies Congress on various power issues; offers information and education services; and provides retirement, safety and insurance programs to its members.
Northwest Public Power Association (NWPPA)
The NWPPA represents 170 public utilities in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, California, British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories. NWPPA conducts educational, communications, legislative and service activities.


Off peak
A period of relatively low demand for electrical energy, such as the middle of the night.
Periods, both planned and unexpected, during which a power-producing facility ceases to provide generation or the transmission of power stops.


load The maximum electrical load demand in a stated period of time. On a daily basis, peak loads occur at midmorning and in the early evening.
Power factor
The fraction of power actually used by a customer's electrical equipment compared to the total apparent power supplied, usually expressed as a percentage. Power factor indicates how far a customer's electrical equipment causes the electric current delivered at the customer's site to be out of phase with the voltage. This enables a power supplier to calculate a power factor adjustment for customers with large loads.
A legal directive that gives publicly-owned utilities and cooperatives priority access to federal power.
Preference customers
Publicly-owned utilities and non-profit cooperatives which by law have preference over investor-owned systems and industrial customers for the purchase of power from federal projects.
Priority firm (PF) rate
The rate for BPA's sales of firm power to preference customers.
PUD Public Utility District (in Washington) or People's Utility District (in Oregon)
A governmental corporation established by voters to supply electric or other utility service.
Pumped storage plant
A hydroelectric power plant which generates electric energy to meet peak load by using water pumped into a storage reservoir during off-peak periods.
Public power
Not-for-profit electric utilities that are owned and operated by their consumers – including municipals, public and peoples utility districts, and cooperatives.
Public Power Council (PPC)
An organization that represents the Pacific Northwest's consumer-owned utilities on important issues in the region and in Washington, D.C. The Council focuses on Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) ratemaking, revenue requirements and policies. In addition, PPC engages with BPA and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on issues related to power supply planning and conservation. PPC strives to keep its members informed about transmission issues, including rates, resources and efforts to form a regional transmission organization. Grays Harbor PUD is a member of PPC.



Rate design
The development of electricity prices for various customer classes to meet revenue requirements dictated by operating needs and costs.
Circuit breakers with an automatic reclose feature. They are used to minimize outage time when temporary problems occur including those caused by tree branches, animals, lightning, wind, ice and snow.
The ability of the power system to provide customers uninterrupted electric service at their point of service.
Renewable Resource
A power source that is continuously or cyclically renewed by nature such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass or similar sources of energy.
capacity Extra generating capacity available to meet unanticipated demands for power or to generate power in the event of loss of generation.
The electric power needed to provide service to customers in the event of generation or transmission system outages, adverse streamflows, delays in the completion of new resources or other factors which may restrict generating capability or increase loads. Reserves normally are provided from additional resources acquired for that purpose, or from contractual rights to interrupt, curtail or otherwise withdraw portions of the electric power supplied to customers.


Operating a power system to balance generation and loads; managing the accounting, billing and information reporting for such operations. Shaping The scheduling and operation of generating resources to meet changing load levels. Load shaping on a hydro system usually involves the adjustment of water releases from reservoirs so that generation and load are continuously in balance.
Solar Energy
The radiant energy of the sun, which can be converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or electricity.
An electric power station which serves as a control and transfer point on an electrical transmission system. Substations route and control electrical power flow, transform voltage levels, and serve as delivery points to individual customers.
Surplus energy
Energy generated that is beyond the immediate needs of the producing system. This energy may be sold on an interruptible basis or as firm power.


Tiered rates
A rate design that divides customer use into different tiers, or blocks, with different prices charged for each.
Time-of-day pricing
A rate design imposing higher charges during periods of the day when higher energy costs are incurred.
A device which converts the generator's low-voltage electricity to higher-voltage levels for transmission to the load center, such as a city or factory.
Transmission (Electric)
The movement or transfer of electric energy over an interconnected group of lines and associated equipment between points of supply and points at which it is transformed for delivery to consumers or is delivered to other electric systems. Transmission is considered to end when the energy is transformed for distribution to the consumer.
Transmission Line
A set of conductors, insulators, supporting structures, and associated equipment used to move large quantities of power at high voltage, usually over long distances between a generating or receiving point and major substations or delivery points.
Transmission System (Electric)
An interconnected group of electric transmission lines and associated equipment for moving or transferring electric energy in bulk between points of supply and points at which it is transformed for delivery over the distribution system lines to consumers or is delivered to other electric systems.
A device which blades, which is turned by a force, e.g. that of wind, water , or high pressure steam. The mechanical energy of the spinning turbine is converted into electricity by a generator.



Volt (V)
The volt is the International System of Units (SI) measure of electric potential or electromotive force. A potential of one volt appears across a resistance of one ohm when a current of one ampere flows through that resistance. Reduced to SI base units, 1 V = 1 kg times m2 times s-3 times A-1 (kilogram meter squared per second cubed per ampere).
The difference in electrical potential between any two conductors or between a conductor and ground. It is a measure of the electric energy per electron that electrons can acquire and/or give up as they move between the two conductors.


Washington Public Utility District Association (WPUDA)
An organization that represents Washington State PUDs in state, regional, and national legislative and policy processes; provides information about PUDs and policy issues to members and the public; offers training and development programs for utility leaders; and provides opportunities for PUD leaders and staff to meet, share information, and plan cooperative activities. Grays Harbor PUD is a member of WPUDA.