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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

The 19 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is located in northeastern Alaska. It is one of the largest, most remote, and most pristine refuges in the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System. It has been targeted as a potential drilling site for petroleum.

Bid rigging

Bid rigging is the way that conspiring competitors effectively raise prices when purchasers -- often federal, state, or local governments -- acquire goods or services by soliciting competing bids. Essentially, competitors agree in advance who will submit the winning bid on a contract.


Biofuels are alcohols, ethers, esters, and other chemicals made from raw biological material such as herbaceous and woody plants, agricultural and forestry residues, and a large portion of municipal solid and industrial waste.


Biomass is organic waste from agricultural, livestock, and lumber industry products, dead trees, foliage, etc., and is considered a renewable energy source. Biomass can be used as fuel and is most often burned to create steam that powers steam turbine generators. It is also used to make transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, and chemicals like pyrolysis oil that can be burned like oil to produce energy.

British thermal unit (BTU)

A standard measure of the quantity of heat, defined since 1956 as approximately equal to 1,055 joules, or 252-gram calories. It was defined formerly as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

The agency responsible for regulating the services provided by utility and transportation companies in California and the rates paid for those services. The CPUC is charged with providing both ratepayers and shareholders with secure service at just and reasonable rates.

Clean coal technology

A new technology using an advanced firing system that produces electricity by burning coal in a manner that minimizes the release of nitrogen impurities. These impurities can combine with oxygen to form pollutants.


Co-generation is a process that involves the combined generation of thermal and electric or mechanical energy. Co-generation plants reuse thermal energy by using the heated gases or fluids that result from thermal electric generation to power an industrial process (such as the creation of steam to drive turbines).


Deregulation is the process of decreasing or eliminating government regulatory control over industries and allowing competitive forces to drive the market.


A contract or convertible security that obtains its value from price fluctuations of a related or underlying security, future, or other instrument or index.

Distributed energy
(also called distributed power, distributed generation, distributed energy resources)

Distributed energy, or distributed generation, involves the use of many small generators placed at various locations in a given region, each supplying power to small, localized service areas in their vicinity. These generating units can be gas turbine, wind turbine or solar powered.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency means conserving energy and increasing the use of renewable sources such as solar, wind, and biomass energy and low-impact hydro-electricity to develop a sustainable energy future.

Energy Star®

Energy Star® was introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) is part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and focuses on finding ways to help government agencies reduce energy costs, increase energy efficiency, use renewable energy, and conserve water.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Operating within the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is an agency with both judicial and legislative powers. Assuming most of the duties of the Federal Power Commission (FPC) at its inception in 1977, the FERC's main duties are to regulate the interstate sale, transportation, and transmission of energy and energy resources, as well as the licensing of hydroelectric projects. Its authority is derived primarily from the Federal Power Act (FPA) of 1935, which states that it is the federal government's responsibility to ensure just and reasonable rates for power.

Fuel cells

A fuel cell is a device that generates direct current electricity by means of an electrochemical process.


Generators are machines that convert fossil and nuclear fuel, or hydro, wind, and solar energy into electricity.

Greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect results from water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases collecting in the Earth's atmosphere and preventing longwave radiation from escaping, thus causing global warming.

Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, tropospheric ozone, nitrous oxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the internal combustion engine of a conventional vehicle with the battery and electric motor of an electric vehicle. The result is twice the fuel economy of conventional vehicles.

Independent system operator (ISO)

An organization equipped with a staff and infrastructure to maintain operational control of the power transmission system serving a large region of the country. The California ISO runs the interconnected power system for the entire state. Their duties include: providing open access to transmission facilities; tracking power usage; settling bills; disbursing funds; issuing power alerts; and coordinating controlled rolling blackouts.

Kilowatt (KW)

One thousand watts. A measure of both the utility's capacity and the customers' demand or load, often confused with kilowatt-hour.

Kilowatt-hour (KWH)

A unit of energy equal to one kilowatt of power for one hour.

Market manipulation

Buying or selling to establish a market trend and then reversing the position to trade against the trend.

Market power

The ability to generate profits by raising prices above competitive levels. Market power can result from either an increased unilateral ability to raise price or from an industry structure conducive to collusive activities.

Megawatt (MW)

One million watts or one thousand kilowatts. A measure of both a utility's capacity and the customers' demand or load, often confused with megawatt hour (MWH).

Megawatt-hour (MWH)

A unit of energy equal to one megawatt of power for one hour.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy designated national laboratory dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. The NREL began operating in July of 1977.

Photovoltaic power

Photovoltaic power comes from harnessing solar energy with non-mechanical semiconductors that convert sunlight to direct current energy.

Power broker

A power broker is a person or company that organizes power sales transactions between other parties, but does not ever take legal possession of that power. Unlike power marketers, power brokers are not required to register with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Power grid

The power grid is the entire interconnected system of power transmission lines that extends throughout the United states and into Canada and Mexico. The grid is divided into three "interconnections" that serve all of the consumers in each region. Smaller distribution points within these interconnections make the supply more manageable as it makes its way to consumers.

Power marketer

Power marketers are persons or companies that sell wholesale power that they generate themselves, purchase from others, or both. Power marketers are required to register with FERC.

Price fixing

Price fixing happens when competitors agree to raise, fix, or otherwise maintain the price at which their goods or services are sold.

Regulation of utilities

Regulation defines the services that utilities must provide to their customers, sets the rates that public utilities can charge for their services, prescribes the accounting systems that must be used in recording financial transactions, and controls external financing. Regulation operates on two major levels: at the state level, through public utilities commissions (i.e., the CPUC in California); and at the federal level through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Renewable energy

Energy resources thought of as inexhaustible like hydro, solar, wind, biomass, and ocean-wave energy are considered renewable.


In business, risk means exposure to uncertain change, particularly adverse change. Annualized standard deviation of return is the generic measurement of risk in most markets.

Risk management

Assessing and attempting to control the downside of a transaction. Complex financial instruments, known as derivatives, are sometimes used by large financial players to spread their risk out over a period of months or years to reduce their exposure to large swings in various markets.

Rolling blackouts

Rolling blackouts are controlled power outages designed to lessen the threat of an overload or crashing of major transmission systems brought on by short supply and high demand for power. Rolling blackouts are scheduled for predetermined sectors of the transmission grid at timed intervals. This spreads the burden of power shortages across the entire region for short, manageable time periods (usually no more than a few hours) rather than allowing unplanned blackouts to hit and jeopardize public safety and sensitive equipment.

Spot market

Refers to immediate buying, and settling, on a transaction in the financial markets. In some ways, it's analogous to "day trading," buying and selling on the daily, or hourly, of the marketplace.


Utilities are entities that provide the public with basic commodities (electricity, natural gas, water, telephone service) and the services and infrastructure to store, deliver, manage, and sell those commodities. Three types of utilities are: investor-owned utilities (IOUs), municipal utilities, and rural electric cooperatives.

Waste heat

Exhaust heat given off from thermal or combustion heat power generation.

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