Customer Choice Dictionary

Affiliate
A company that is controlled by another or that has the same owner as another company.

Aggregator
A firm, licensed by the commission, that signs up a large group of consumers to bargain on their behalf for the lowest possible price for electricity. The firm “aggregates” or combines many smaller customers into one large customer for purposes of negotiation. It purchases the electricity for the group.

Base Load
The minimum energy level a company must provide to its customers on a constant basis.

Basic Service
The four charges for generation, transmission, distribution and transition that all customers must pay in order to retain electric service.

Broker
A firm, licensed by the commission, that acts as an agent or “middle man” in the sale and purchases of electricity but never owns the electricity and typically does not own generating facilities.

Bulk Power Market
Wholesale purchases and sales of electricity.

Chapter 56
The Public Utility Commission’s regulations that establish rules for payment of utility bills, requests for service, payment of deposits, billing, termination of service and complaint handling. These regulations are to protect residential customers of regulated electric, gas, water, steam heat, and sewer companies in Pennsylvania.

Commission
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

Conservation
Reducing a customer’s electricity use to decrease the need to generate electricity.

Consumer Education
Efforts to provide consumers with skills and knowledge to use their resources wisely in the marketplace.

Customer Assistance Programs (CAPS)
Alternative collection program set up between a utility company and a customer that allow customers to pay utility bills on a percentage of the bill they owe or percentage of customer income instead of paying the full amount owed. These programs are for low income people who can’t pay their bills. These customers must agree to make regular monthly payments based on their new payment plans.

Daily Peak
The maximum amount of energy or service demanded in one day from a company or utility service.

Demand
A measure of customer or system load requirements over a measured period of time.

Departing Member
A member consumer served at retail by an electric cooperative corporation that has given notice of intent to receive generation service from another source or that is otherwise in the process of changing generation suppliers. These persons shall nonetheless remain members of the electric distribution cooperative corporation for purposes of distribution service.

Deregulation
Removal or relaxation of regulations or controls governing a business or service operation such as utilities.

Distribution
The local wires, transformers, substations and other equipment used to distribute and deliver electricity to end-use consumers from the high-voltage transmission lines.

Distribution Charges
Part of the basic service charges on every customer’s bill for delivering electricity from the electric distribution company to your home or business. The distribution charge is regulated by the Public Utility Commission. This charge will vary according to how much electricity you use.

Distribution Line
The local part of an electric system that delivers electricity to most customers.

Distributive Power
A packaged power unit located at the point of demand. While the technology is still evolving, examples include fuel cells and photovoltaic applications.

Electric Distribution Company (EDC)
The company that owns the power lines and equipment necessary to deliver purchased electricity to the customer.

Energy Conservation
To reduce or manage energy consumption in a cost-effective manner.

Energy Services Company (ESCO)
A company offering specialized or customized services for efficiency or financial savings to customers.

Escape Provision
A contract provision which allows a party, such as an electric customer, to get out of it. Usually, there is a penalty.

Fixed Price
A price which remains the same, usually for a set time period.

Flat Rate
A fixed charge for goods and services that does not vary with changes in the amount used, volume consumed, or units purchased.

Formal Complaint
A written dispute or disagreement about a utility problem filed by a consumer with the Public Utility Commission. A formal complaint is assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who holds hearings to develop a record. After the hearings, the judge issues a decision. (See informal complaint.)

Generation
Production of electricity from a power plant.

Generation Charges
Part of the basic service charges on every customer’s bill for producing electricity. Generation service is competitively priced and is not regulated by the Public Utility Commission. This charge depends on the terms of service between the customer and the supplier.

Green Power or GreenCos
Demand side management and other non-polluting sources of energy generation.

Grid
A network for the transmission of electricity throughout the state or nation.

Gross Receipts
The total revenue for a calendar year for all electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers which are derived from the sales of electric energy.

Hourly Metering or Time of Use Metering
Tracking or recording a customer’s consumption during specific periods of time that can be tied to the price of energy.

Informal Complaint
A dispute or disagreement about a utility problem filed by a consumer with the Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS). A BCS investigator reviews the informal complaint and provides the customer with a response to their dispute. Most responses are in the form of a decision that the customer or company can appeal. If an informal complaint is appealed, it becomes a formal complaint. (See Formal Complaint.)

Intangible Transition Charge
The amounts on all customer bills, collected by the electric utility to recover transition bond expenses.

Interruptible Rate
A special utility rate given to those who agree to have their service reduced or temporarily stopped as part of an agreement with the utility company. Circumstances for service interruptions can be periods of high demand or high cost periods of short supply for the utility and/or system emergencies.

Investor-owned Utility
A utility company owned and operated by private investors.

Kilowatt (kW)
(1) A measure of demand for power during a preset time–minutes, hours, days, months;
(2) 1,000 watts–Ten 100 watt light bulbs use one kW of electric power.

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 1 hour. Consumers are charged for electricity in cents per kilowatt-hour.

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

Load Profile
Information on a customer’s usage over a period of time, sometimes shown as a graph like the one on the bill.

Load Management
Shifting use of electricity from periods of high demand to periods of lower demand, when the cost of electricity usually is lower.

Marketer
A company, licensed by the Commission, that buys and resells electricity, but that typically does not own generating facilities.

Non Basic Service
Any category of service not related to basic services (generation, transmission, distribution and transition charges).

Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA)
A government office that represents the interests of residential utility consumers before the Public Utility Commission in rate and service cases and before other state and federal regulatory agencies and courts.

Office of Small Business Advocate (OSBA)
A state government office that represents the interests of small business consumers by participating in PUC rate cases and other state and federal regulatory cases.

Off-Peak/On-Peak
Blocks of time when energy demand and price are low (off-peak) or high (on-peak).

Pilot
A utility program offering a limited group of customers their choice of certified or licensed energy suppliers on a one year minimum trial basis.

Power Pool
Combining electric power supplies. Two or more interconnected electric systems planned and operated to supply power in the most reliable and economical manner. (POOLCO)

Price-Cap
Situation where a price has been determined and fixed.

Public Input Hearings
Meetings where consumers can give input to the PUC. Sworn or unsworn testimony to the PUC judge and to the utility, consumer advocate and PUC staff. The PUC conducts hearings in the service area of the utility who requested the rate increase. Sometimes consumers can point out problems with the quality of the utility’s service, management, or policies which could affect the outcome of a case.

Public Utility Code
The law which sets the powers and duties of the PA Public Utility Commission. It also sets many of the guidelines the PUC uses for utilities’ rates and service standards.

Public Utility Commission (PUC)
The state regulatory agency that provides oversight, policy guidance and direction to electric public utilities.

Real-time Pricing
Rates that reflect the actual cost of providing service at a given time creating fluctuating prices.

Regulation
A rule or law established by the federal or state government which sets procedures that a utility must follow.

Reliability
The providing of adequate and dependable generation, transmission and distribution service.

Renewables
Includes technologies such as solar photovoltaic energy, solar thermal energy, wind power, low head hydro power, geothermal energy, landfill and mine based methane gas, energy from waste and sustainable biomass energy.

Resellers
Companies that purchase utility service from a wholesaler and resell it to consumers.

Restructuring
The reorganization of traditional monopoly electric service to allow operations and charges to be separated or “unbundled” into generation, transmission, distribution and other services. This will permit customers to buy generation services from competing suppliers.

Retail Wheeling
Also known as retail customer choice–A utility company is required to transport electricity from a generating plant it does not own directly to its retail customers. This gives retail customers the ability to purchase electricity from sources they choose.

Retail Customer Choice
See Retail Wheeling

Rural Electric Cooperative
Customer-owned electric utility that distributes electricity to members and that receives lower-cost financing through the federal government.

Securitization
The act of pledging assets to a creditor through a note, lien or bond.

Spot Market
Short-term purchases of electricity from surpluses available for a short time.

Stranded Benefits
Special collection programs, renewable energy and demand side management programs, lifeline rates and other utility resources funded by a monopoly utility that may not be funded if the utility’s competition does not have similar costs.

Stranded Commitment
Assets and contracts associated with shifting to competition which are above market prices and hence result in non-competitive conditions for the utility.

Stranded Investments or Stranded Costs
A utility investment, such as in facilities and equipment, that is not supported by market prices.

Supplier (Electricity Supplier)
A person or corporation, generator, broker, marketer, aggregator or any other entity, that sells electricity to customers, using the transmission or distribution facilities of an electric distribution company (EDC).

Title 52
The section of the Pennsylvania Code that governs utilities.

Transition Charge
A charge on every customer’s bill designed to recover an electric utility’s transition or stranded costs as determined by the Public Utility Commission.

Transmission
Interconnecting electric lines which move high voltage electricity from where it is produced to the point of distribution to customers.

Transmission Charges
Part of the basic service charges on every customer’s bill for transporting electricity from the source of supply to the electric distribution company. The Public Utility Commission regulates retail transmission prices and services. This charge will vary with your source of supply.

Unbundling
Breaking down services offered into parts so each part can be billed separately.

Universal Service
Policies, protections and services that help low-income customers maintain electric service.

Utility Competition
Two or more electric suppliers providing the same or similar goods or services in the same market place and for the same customers.

Variable Price
A price which can change, by the hour, day, month etc.

Weatherization
Modifying a home or structure to conserve energy. Methods include: sealing window and door frames with caulking or gaskets, installing storm doors and windows, and adding or increasing the insulation.

Wheeling
The transmission of power that has been generated by one entity over the lines of another utility system.

Wholesale Competition
A market structure where municipal and other utilities can exercise choice in electricity suppliers in order to meet customer needs.