Glossary of Key Energy Terms

Biomass: Electricity generated by burning organic matter such as plants. Landfill gas is the most widely used resources for biomass energy generation.

Carbon calculator: A tool that can be used to measure an individual's or group's carbon footprint based on the environmental demand of their everyday activities.

Carbon emissions: Carbon monoxide and dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from human activity such as vehicle use or industrial work.

Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, organization, event or product.

Carbon dioxide (C02): A naturally present compound that is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activity. The main activity that emits carbon dioxide is the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil.

Climate change: Significant and lasting change in weather and temperature caused by variations in solar radiation, plate tectonics, volcanic eruptions or biotic processes. Current climate change has been attributed to increased greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT): A membership-based council that provides electricity to about 23 million people in Texas, totaling about 85 percent of the state's electricity consumption. ERCOT consists of consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, utilities and municipal-owned electric utilities.

Energy deregulation: The act or process of separating the generation, transmission, distribution and sales processes and allowing numerous supply companies to compete for customers. The Texas electricity market became deregulated in January 2002.

Ethanol: A clean-burning, renewable fuel source make from agricultural products such as corn.

Fixed rate: An energy plan option that offers a fixed supply rate over a set period of time. These plans offer price protection against market volatility.

Global warming: A phrase used to describe climate change which references rising global and ocean temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. This is mainly due to rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by human activity. The rising overall temperature and ocean temperature has been linked to increasingly variable and extreme weather, including blizzards, hurricanes and heat waves.

Indexed rate: An energy plan in which rates are tied directly to the market costs of another commodity, typically natural gas.

Kilowatt (kW): A unit of measure that is commonly used in reference to electricity. One kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts.

Kilowatt hour (kWh): The standard unit used to measure electricity consumption over time that is equivalent to 1,000 watts per hour.

Natural gas: A colorless and odorless gas that is composed mostly of methane. It is used to heat homes and buildings and produce electricity. It is often found deep underground and is extracted via hydraulic fracturing.

Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT): A Texas state agency that regulates and monitors the state's electricity utilities. The PUCT helps regulate transmission and distribution of electricity in deregulated and deregulated areas to improve customer satisfaction.

Renewable energy: Energy generated from a natural source that can be naturally replenished. Common sources of renewable energy are sunlight, wind, tides, waves and geothermal heat. These sources produce little to no pollution or carbon emissions.

Renewable energy certificate: A tradable certificate that represents 1 megawatt hour of electricity that is generated from a renewable energy resource. With most renewable energy plans, electricity providers purchase RECs on the customer's behalf, which offsets electricity consumption and supports renewable energy generation.

Retail electric provider (REP): REPs are the companies that compete with one another in deregulated areas to sell energy rates to residential and commercial customers. They are responsible for the supply of your energy, while the local utility is in charge of the delivery.

Solar power: Electricity generated by the collection and transformation of ultraviolet sun rays or solar thermal heat.

Transmission and distribution service provider (TDSP): TDSPs own or operate the equipment that transmit and distribute electricity in Texas. The TDSP in your area is your utility, and will take care of your poles and power lines. This is also the company you should call in case of a power outage.

Utility: Also known as a TDSP, the utility in your area is responsible for the transmission and delivery of electricity to your home or business. They also take care of local energy infrastructure such as power lines.

Variable rate: A rate plan that fluctuates based on changes in the electricity or gas rates market. This type of plan gives customers the opportunity to spend less than in a fixed-rate contract, but also puts them at risk if a sudden price spike occurs.

Wind power: Electricity generated through large wind turbines. Wind power is particularly popular in Texas and the state is currently the nation's leading producer of wind-generated electricity.