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Access charge

A fee assessed for the right to send electricity over another utility’s wires.


A nationally recognized wholesale energy trading and risk management firm formed in February 1999. Owned and governed by 16 electric co-ops, APM, based in Carmel, IN, also serves other electric industry participants, such as municipal electric systems, financial institutions, and independent power producers. APM has become one of the nation’s largest physical traders of electricity.

ACRE Co-op Owners for Political Action®

A program created by NRECA in 2003 that allows residential electric co-op consumers to participate in the Action Committee for Rural Electrification.

Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE®)

A political action committee formed by NRECA in 1966 that gives financial support to congressional and state legislative candidates friendly to electric co-ops. ACRE does not get involved in presidential, gubernatorial, statewide row office, judicial, or municipal races. Forty-nine percent of all ACRE funds are returned to state ACRE committees, based on each state’s contributions.

Advanced meter infrastructure (AMI)

A comprehensive set of technologies and software applications that enable two-way communications with a smart meter and provide electric utilities—using frequent meter reads—with near real-time oversight of system operations.

Aggregate load

Similar businesses or groups that pool purchasing power to negotiate for better electricity prices.


Brokers, utilities, or other parties that put retail consumers into electric power buying groups to negotiate for the lowest possible electricity costs, or that sell demand response from multiple retail consumers into the wholesale market.


Includes all forms of enterprises involved in getting food from field to table, ranging from producing, processing, storing, and distributing commodities to manufacturing and selling farm equipment and supplies.

All-requirements power contract

A formal agreement between a power supply system and its member distribution systems. In this contract the distribution systems agree to purchase all their wholesale power needs from the power supply system at rates prescribed in the agreement and adjusted periodically to meet the power supply system’s cost of providing the power.

Alternating current (AC)

The characteristic of electricity in which the current flow in a circuit changes direction (180 degrees). Each change is called a cycle. The number of cycles during a given time period is called frequency. The standard frequency in the United States is 60 cycles per second.

American Public Power Association (APPA)

A Washington, D.C.-based national service organization representing municipal electric utilities.

Ampere (A)

A measure of how much electricity is moving through a conductor. Amperes equal watts divided by volts.

Ancillary services

Items necessary to support reliable operation of an interconnected transmission system. FERC has identified six ancillary services: reactive power and voltage control, loss compensation, scheduling and dispatch, load following, system protection, and energy imbalance.

Anhydrous ammonia

A liquid that readily vaporizes in air to a colorless, pungent gas that is lighter than air. This non-flammable liquid is used as fertilizer (nitrogen) and as an industrial refrigerant. It is a Synfuels Plant byproduct.

Antelope Valley Station (AVS)

Basin Electric’s two-unit, coal-based generating station that has a 900-megawatt capacity. AVS is located near Beulah, ND, and shares resources and facilities with Dakota Gasification Company’s Synfuels Plant.


A hard, high-energy coal with high carbon content and little volatile matter, most commonly mined in the northeastern United States.

Arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI)

A fire-protection device that instantly breaks an electric circuit when a non-working electric arc develops.

Arc flash

A type of electrical explosion (essentially a short circuit through the air) that can cause substantial damage, fire, or injury. In an arc flash incident, an enormous amount of concentrated energy explodes outward from electrical equipment.

Area coverage

The extension of electric service to everyone who wants it in a given area at no additional charge; a basic tenet of electric co-ops.

Articles of incorporation

A legal document that identifies the terms under which a corporation is created and identifies the principals. It creates the association as a legal entity under state corporate statute; defines the board powers and responsibilities of the association and its membership; and, sets forth the process for creating the board of directors, voting system, etc.


The non-combustible residue of burned coal. Ash occurs in raw coal as clay, pyrite or other mineral matter.

Automated meter reading (AMR)

Specially equipped metering devices that allows utilities to remotely collect kWh use (and in some cases demand) information and transfer it to a central database for billing and/or analyzing purposes.

Automatic vehicle location (AVL)

Technology used to track the geographic location of a vehicle at any point in time. Electric co-ops use AVL to better schedule line crews in the field and ensure their safety.


The amount of time a power plant is available and ready to generate electricity.

Available Transfer Capability

A measure of the transfer capability remaining in the physical transmission network for further commercial activity over and above the already committed uses. ATC is defined as the total transfer capability, less the sum of existing transmission commitments (including transmission that is used for reliability purposes).

Avoided cost

A calculation that estimates the expense an electric utility incurs to supply or generate a certain amount of power.

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Best Available Control Technology for emissions control equipment.

Backup power

Electricity supplied when generating units are not in service because of emergencies, outages, or scheduled maintenance.


An enclosed structure that uses filter bags to help remove sulfur dioxide from flue gas by collecting spray dryer absorber products. The filters also remove fly ash. Essentially, a baghouse works like a vacuum cleaner.

Barrel (bbl)

A measurement equal to 42 U.S. gallons.

Base load

A utility’s minimum load over a given period. A baseload generating facility provides the basic amount of electric power needed year-round; normally a large, efficient power plant having a low cost per kilowatt-hour generated.


A large, efficient generating station—typically with a capacity factor of at least 65 percent— that provides dependable electric power year-round at a low cost per kWh.

Base rate

The portion of a total electric rate that covers the cost of doing business unrelated to fuel expenses.

Basin Cooperative Services (BCS)

A not-for-profit subsidiary of Basin Electric since 1981 that acquires resources and services for electric plant generation.

Basin Telecommunications Inc. (BTInet)

A for-profit subsidiary of Basin Electric that offers commercial Internet service and Internet-based business solutions.


Biological material that can be used as a fuel or exploited for industrial purposes (such as chemicals, fibers, plastics, etc.). In electricity generation, biomass consists of two types: closed-loop biomass (trees grown expressly for power production) and open-loop biomass (sawdust, tree trimmings, timber slash, wood chips, farm byproducts, animal waste, and landfill gas).

Biomass conversion

The process of producing fuels or energy from renewable organic matter such as plant or animal wastes.

Bituminous coal

A high-energy soft coal that ranks below anthracite in energy value. Generally has a high heat content and is soft enough to be readily ground for easy combustion. Bituminous accounts for the bulk of all coal mined in the United States.


Total power failure over a large area, often caused by the malfunction of generating equipment or transmission facilities.

Block rate

A pricing structure where consumers pay a specific cost for a set amount of kWh, with the price per kWh changing as set quantities are exceeded.

Board of directors

In Basin Electric’s case, each director is elected and represents one of Basin Electric’s membership districts. The directors have been elected to the boards of their local distribution systems and then, with the exception of districts 9 and 10, to their respective intermediate generation and transmission systems. Districts 9 and 10, which have no intermediate supplier, are served directly.


A device where heat converts water to steam.

Bottom ash

A part of coal that doesn’t burn, but instead falls to the bottom of the boiler. It consists mostly of oxides of silicon, aluminum and iron.

British thermal unit (Btu)

Amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. It’s about as much heat as a kitchen match produces.


A small, temporary voltage reduction implemented by a utility to conserve electric power during periods of high use.

Bulk power

Large amounts of electricity shipped across a transmission system, generally on a wholesale level.


A term referring to the vertical organization of a utility into generation, transmission and distribution segments. Bundling of an electric bill means the consumer is billed just one amount for all components involved in providing electricity.

Bureau of Reclamation

An agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, established in 1902, that has constructed more than 600 dams and reservoirs in 17 western states, including such iconic projects as Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. The Bureau of Reclamation owns and operates 58 federal hydropower facilities.


An electrical conductor that serves as a common connection for two or more electrical circuits.


Large conductors that carry electricity out of a power plant.

Bus-bar cost

The total cost of generating electricity, excluding substation and transmission losses.


Rules for operating a cooperative approved by the membership.


Secondary or incidental products resulting, most often, from a manufacturing process.

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Canadian Clean Power Coalition (CCPC)

The Canadian Clean Power Coalition (CCPC) project was initiated in 2001 to accelerate the development and demonstration of clean coal technology in Canada. The multistage objectives are to demonstrate all future environmental issues, including carbon dioxide, for a retrofit technology by 2008 and a Greenfield plant by the 2010-2012 timeframe.


The capability or power of an electric generating plant. Also, the total amount of electricity a power line is able to transport at any given time.

Cap and trade

A system of reducing airborne pollutants from large stationary sources (such as power plants, factories, and refineries) using market forces. Each facility has a limit placed on the amount of a particular pollutant it can release—the cap. Sources that emit less than the cap can sell the extra allowances to those not able to achieve reductions as easily—the trade.


A device that stores electrical charges and maintains voltage levels in power lines to improve electric system efficiency.


The potential for generating power, measured in kW or MW, of a power plant. Also the electric load, measured in W or kW, of a piece of electrical equipment.

Capacity factor

The ratio of actual net electrical energy generation to the maximum possible energy that could have been generated if a plant operated at its maximum capacity rating for the same time.

Capital credits

Margins credited to members of a cooperative based on their purchases from the cooperative. Used by the cooperative as working capital for a period of time, then paid back to the membership. Also called patronage capital or equity capital.

Capital expenditures

Construction costs of new utility plants. These include costs of plant additions, improvements, and replacements, as well as expenditures for the purchase or acquisition of existing utility plant facilities.

Captive consumer

An individual who does not have a realistic alternative to buying power from a local utility.

Captive shipper

Utilities, chemical manufacturers, steel mills, mines, lumber and wood products companies, and grain processors that must rely on a single railroad line for transporting goods or receiving raw materials.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

The technical process of separating carbon dioxide gas from power plant emissions (primarily coal- or natural gas-fired generation); compressing it; pumping it down into spent oil and natural gas wells, saline reservoirs, or inaccessible coal seams; and entombing it there forever.

Carbon dioxide

A colorless gas that makes up about 0.03 percent of the atmosphere. Also, a byproduct of the Synfuels Plant.

Carbon footprint

The impact human activities have on the environment based on the amount of greenhouse gases produced as measured in units of carbon dioxide.

Carbon sequestration

The permanent removal of carbon dioxide from (or before it enters) the atmosphere by both natural (crops, forests, oceans, soil, and vegetation) and man-made means. Synonymous with the “storage” part of carbon capture and storage.

Carbon tax

A levy on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, based on the carbon content of a particular fuel.

Central station service

Electricity provided by a utility rather than self-generated by a consumer.

CFL Charlie

Cartoon mascot created in 2008 for the Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Kids Zone Web site.


A quantity of electricity produced by either a surplus or shortage of electrons in an object.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Chemicals used as refrigerants and propellants in aerosol cans. Studies have shown that these compounds destroy the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere.


A conductor, such as wire, through which electric current flows. Also the path electric current takes from the power source to the device using the power and then back to the source.

Circuit breaker

A switch that opens an electric circuit when a short occurs or the system is otherwise abnormally stressed.

Circulating fluidized bed (CFB)

Coal, air and inert material such as limestone is fed into a combustor and burned at a relatively low temperature. The products of combustion are then circulated through a cyclone and back to the combustor to be completely burned. Gas clean-up systems result in low emissions. The largest operational CFB boilers are in the 300-megawatt range, and it's not proven with high-sodium lignite.

Class A member systems

Basin Electric members that purchase wholesale power directly from Basin Electric under contract. Class A members can be generation and transmission (G&T) systems or retail distribution systems. The G&T systems, in turn, provide wholesale power to electric retail distribution systems.

Class B member systems

Basin Electric member cooperatives that construct, operate and maintain electric transmission and distribution lines. Class B members transmit, distribute and sell electricity within the geographic area served by a Class A member.

Class C member systems

Basin Electric member cooperatives that construct, operate and maintain electric retail distribution systems. Class C members are retail distributors of electricity sold by Class A G&T members under power supply contracts.

Class D member systems

An electric cooperative that contracts to purchase part of its power requirements from Basin Electric but not at the Class A member rate. Class D members are added to District 9 and are limited to a single vote within the district.

Class rate

A pricing structure given to similar groups of electric consumers, such as residential, commercial, or industrial users.

Clean Air Act

The original Clean Air Act was passed in 1963, but our national air pollution control program is actually based on the 1970 version of the law. It was revised in 1977 and 1990. It is the federal law regulating air emissions and has created numerous federal and state programs, procedures and standards designed to protect and enhance the quality of the nation’s air resources.

Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation issued on March 10, 2005, that permanently caps emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides across 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia. When fully implemented in 2015, CAIR will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants by more than 70 percent and nitrogen oxides emissions by more than 60 percent from 2003 levels as well as result in $85 billion to $100 billion in annual public health benefits and nearly $2 billion in visibility benefits.

Clean coal technologies

New ways to burn or use coal that significantly reduce the release of pollutants and offer greater environmental protection and, often, better economic performance than older coal technologies.

Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs)

Created in the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, these bonds act as interest-free loans and provide not-for-profit electric cooperatives with a way to invest in renewable generation.

Climate change

Periods of freezing and warming experienced by planet Earth. Policymakers are now focused on finding ways to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions blamed for contributing to what most scientists contend is a current cycle of global warming. Electric cooperatives are encouraging elected officials to make sure that any climate change solutions adopted can be sustained economically and politically for decades to come.


A readily combustible black or brownish-black rock formed in ecosystems where plant remains were preserved and fossilized by water and mud. It’s composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen along with small quantities of other elements, notably sulfur. Coal remains the most commonly used fuel for generating electricity in the nation and around the world.

Coal gasification

The conversion of coal to a gas that can be processed to produce synthetic fuels such as natural gas.

Coal liquefaction

The conversion of coal to liquid fuel, generally diesel.

Coal slurry

Finely ground coal suspended in water for transport through a pipeline.

Coefficient of Performance (COP)

The ratio of heating or cooling provided by a heat pump (or other refrigeration machine) to the energy consumed by the system under designated operating conditions. The higher the COP, the more efficient the system.


The production of electrical energy and another form of useful energy (such as heat or steam) through the sequential use of energy.

Coincident capacity

The ratio of actual net electric generation to the maximum possible energy that could have been produced if a facility operated at its maximum capacity rating during a power supplier’s peak demand.

Combustion turbine

An electric generator powered by gas or fuel oil, which often provides energy for peak loads.

Coincident demand

The amount of power used by a consumer or class of consumers during a power supplier’s system peak demand.

Coincidental peak

The sum of two or more utility system load peaks that occur during the same time.

Combined cycle

A method of generating power from waste heat created by one or more combustion turbines. High-pressure, high-temperature exhaust from the turbines can be captured to make steam and power a turbine-generator that produces additional electricity. The process greatly increases generating efficiency at low cost with zero emissions.

Combustion turbine

An engine that typically burns natural gas, occasionally diesel fuel, or a combination of both to produce electricity. Combustion turbines, because of their generally rapid startup and ramping times, are often used to meet short-term demand peaks placed on electric systems.

Common Use System (CUS)

Basin Electric's joint transmission system with Black Hills Power and Powder River Energy Corporation.

Compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL)

A type of fluorescent lamp designed to replace incandescent lightbulbs. Compared with incandescent delivering the same amount of visible light, CFLs use 25 percent to 33 percent less energy and boast a longer life. After 2012, retail stores in the United States will stock only CFLs.

Compatible vegetation

Vegetation that does not exceed a maximum height of 12 feet at maturity and does not interfere with transmission facility access and/or maintenance requirements.

Compressed-air storage

Power plants that generate electricity during times of peak demand by using compressed air previously pumped into an underground cavern during off-peak periods. When needed, the compressed air gets withdrawn to drive a turbine.


A material that allows an electric current to pass through it. Also, the wire that carries electricity in an electric distribution or transmission system.


The state of a transmission system when a binding limit (constraint) on the system’s transfer capability is reached that must be addressed.

Congestion charges

Energy costs from system re-dispatch to relieve a constrained interface. This is the primary output of LMP calculations. Charges that relate to the marginal congestion component of energy purchases or transmission usage charges. These charges reflect the increased cost that result from dispatching the transmission system to respect transmission system (or flow gate) constraints.

Congestion Revenue Right (CRR)

A financial right to collect (or pay) revenues from congestion over a defined path (i.e., point-to-point), based on differences in locational prices. A property right held by a customer that entitles and/or obligates the holder of the right to receive specified congestion revenues.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO)

A non-partisan arm of Congress that prepares fiscal estimates and budgets.

Connection charge

A one-time levy paid by a consumer for expenses involved in connecting electric service to a home or a business.


The careful and wise use of resources, as well as changes in consumer behavior to save energy.

Consolidation Coal Company

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, it started operations at the Glenharold Mine in 1966 to serve Leland Olds Station Unit 1. Basin Cooperative Services acquired ownership of the Glenharold Mine properties from Consolidation in December 1981 and took over active management of the mine in January 1985.

Construction work in progress (CWIP)

A utility regulatory commission term. CWIP is not allowed in the rate base of regulated utilities. However, some agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, treat CWIP on a case-by-case basis.


What electric cooperatives call (or should call) those who use their services.

Consumer charge

A levy sometimes used to recover fixed costs for serving individual accounts. These costs are recovered through a flat charge, regardless of the amount of energy used.

Consumer choice

The ability for consumers to select between competing companies for electric generation.

Consumer-member, consumer-owner

More inclusive wording for all persons (including children) served by an electric cooperative than the more restrictive member or owner (which refer just to the person[s] listed on the account).

Continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS)

Systems that measure on a continuous basis emissions released by a source. The 1990 Clean Air Act requires CEMS for certain large sources, including some base load power plants.

Contract demand

The maximum level of power a generating utility agrees to have available for delivery.

Cooling tower

A structure used to vent steam produced by a nuclear power plant.

Cooperative (co-op)

A member-owned business with membership open to those who use its services. Democratically controlled and operated on a non-profit basis, a cooperative returns any margins to members on the basis of patronage.

Cooperative Month

An annual October commemoration started in 1930 focusing on the importance of cooperative organizations.

Cooperative principles

The seven cooperative principles are 1) open and voluntary membership; 2) democratic member control; 3) member economic participation including limited return on investment and return of surplus to members; 4) cooperative autonomy and independence; 5) cooperative education, training and information; 6) cooperation among cooperatives; and 7) concern for community.

Cost-based rate

A pricing structure where consumers in each class (residential, commercial, and industrial) pay their fair share of a cooperative’s costs so no group subsidizes another.


The cost of providing a consumer with electric service, excluding generation.

Cost-of-service study

An analysis that determines how much it costs an electric utility to serve various classes of consumers; provides the basis for evaluating different discount and incentive programs and results in the development of cost-based rates.

Council of Rural Electric Communicators (CREC)

A group of professional communicators who work to improve communication with electric cooperative consumers. Established on October 27,1981.

Cove heater

A heating system installed on a wall near the ceiling, combining radiant and convective heat.

Credit union

A financial cooperative formed by a group of people with a shared field of membership who join together to save money and make loans at the lowest possible cost.

Cresylic acid

A flammable, colorless, yellowish, brownish-yellow or pinkish oily liquid used in antioxidants, pesticides, lubricants and plastics. It is a Synfuels Plant byproduct.

Critical-peak pricing

A method of setting rates where power costs are much higher during a limited number of hours per year (typically fewer than 80 hours). These rates are generally coupled with time-of-use rates under which the cost for electricity varies according to the time when it’s consumed, whether during more expensive peak (usually afternoon) or cheaper off-peak (usually nighttime) demand periods. Higher prices are meant to discourage use at those times.


A wooden support attached to a pole that holds wire and insulators.


The practice of charging rates higher than the actual cost of service to one class of consumers so that lower rates can be provided to another class.


The flow of charged particles through a conductive material.


A transformer fuse so named because when the fuse is removed the circuit opens.


A single period of two phases in which alternating current reverses direction before returning to the first state. Alternating current consists of a succession of cycles.

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Dakota Coal Company (Dakota Coal or DCC)

A wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of Basin Electric formed in 1988 to provide financing for and market lignite from the Freedom Mine near Beulah, ND. The Freedom Mine supplies lignite for Dakota Gasification Company and Basin Electric’s Antelope Valley and Leland Olds stations. It has a division and a subsidiary. (See Montana Limestone Company and Wyoming Lime Producers.)

Dakota Gasification Company (DGC)

A wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary of Basin Electric founded in 1988 to own and operate the Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah, ND. The plant produces natural gas from coal and byproducts of the coal gasification process.

Day-ahead market

The competitive wholesale power market for the following day, or more specifically, the market for wholesale electricity 24 hours in advance of a given time in any day.

Debt-to-equity ratio

The amount an electric cooperative owes in relation to the amount it owns.

Declining block rate

A pricing structure where a consumer pays less for electricity as use increases beyond one or more fixed kWh amounts during a specific billing period.


A measurement of how much the average daily temperature varies from a standard reference temperature; employed to estimate heating and cooling requirements for a home or building.

Delivery point

The interconnection where one utility supplies power to another utility’s system.


The amount of electricity drawn from an electric system at a given time. Expressed in kilowatts or megawatts.

Demand charge

A pricing structure for electricity based on the maximum amount of system power a consumer uses.

Demand interval

A period of time during which the flow of electricity gets averaged to determine demand.

Demand meter

An electric meter that also measures and records maximum demand over a specified period of time.

Demand rate

A pricing structure where a consumer, usually a large commercial or industrial account, pays for electricity based on the maximum kW used during times of peak demand.

Demand response

Programs or mechanisms that reduce electricity consumption in response to market signals or other incentives. Demand response includes direct load control, time-of-use rates, interruptible contracts, utility dispatch of consumer-owned generation, and other initiatives.

Demand-side management

A utility program aimed at reducing total consumer use of electricity through conservation or efficiency measures, or shaving peak demand through use of demand-response measures.

Department of Energy's Power System Development Facility (PSDF)

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Power System Development Facility (PSDF) is located in Wilsonville, Al. The PSDF's "Transport Reactor" (TRIG) is a nominal 4-MW to 8-MW pilot scale advanced coal gasification system. To date, three 250-hour tests of lignite have been conducted with very promising results with low sodium lignite, but with a deposition issue identified for high sodium lignite.


Major reduction of government oversight of private industry.


A device for recovering heat from a heat pump or central air conditioner for use in heating or preheating water.


A type electric utility line truck that digs holes and sets poles.

Direct access

The ability of a retail consumer to purchase electricity directly from the competitive power market rather than through his or her local distribution utility.

Direct current (DC)

Electricity that flows through a conductor in a single direction.

Direct current (DC) ties

Direct current ties make it possible to move power from generating facilities on the east of the national transmission system separation to the west side and vice versa. The separate systems arose because the historical development of transmission in the United States progressed from the seacoasts toward the middle of the country. The two systems cannot be linked at the area where they meet because existing transmission in that area is not sufficient in size to bear surges of power from one system to another. Such surges would result whenever power plants trip off line. These systems work by converting alternating current from one transmission system into direct current, and then converting the direct current back into alternating current that is in phase with the receiving system. DC ties filter out the effects of power surges within each of the separate systems.


Separating a vertically integrated utility into smaller, individually operated distribution. transmission, and generation divisions.

Distributed generation

Decentralized generation technologies designed to supplement or replace power produced by large generating plants. In most cases, distributed generation is located at or near the point of use. Distributed generation further provides electric cooperatives with an option when electricity use spikes—a consumer can switch to his or her backup power supply and ease strain on the grid. In return, the consumer usually receives a special electric rate that helps decrease costs.

Distributed resources

Decentralized energy sources including distributed generation, local energy storage, and demand-response resources.

Distribution cooperative

An electric cooperative that purchases wholesale power and delivers it to consumer-members.

Distribution system

The poles, wires and transformers used to deliver electric energy from a bulk power supplier to the consumer.


Any endeavor outside the core function or mission of a business.


Denotes a power plant that’s not operating.

Down-line automation

Digital technologies that help utilities monitor the flow of electricity along a distribution grid in near real-time; pinpoint outages; identify voltages out of allowed ranges; and transmit signals to transformers, capacitors, circuit breakers, and other equipment to initiate diagnostic or corrective actions.


A large mobile excavator used in a strip mine to remove dirt and other material covering coal seams.

Dry Fork Mine

Dry Fork Mine was developed to be a fuel supply source for the Laramie River Station (LRS). Dry Fork is a 7,000-acre mine located five miles northeast of Gillette. Three million tons of coal per year is shipped by rail to LRS near Wheatland, WY, which is approximately 100 miles from Dry Fork. Western Fuels Association operates the mine through its affiliates. Basin Electric is a member of Western Fuels.

Dry Fork Station

Projected to be operational by 2011, Basin Electric is constructing the Dry Fork Station, a coal-based power plant in the Gillette, WY, area to meet the growing electricity demand by its member systems. Dry Fork Station will have a 385-megawatt generating capacity.

Dual fuel

A system where a supplemental heating source, such as an oil furnace, takes over when electricity is cut off to heat pumps or electric baseboard systems during times of peak electric consumption.

Dynamic pricing

A method of setting rates where the retail price for electricity varies according to the cost of wholesale power at the time it’s consumed.


The very first electric generator capable of producing power for consumers on a large scale, it converted mechanical rotation within a magnetic field into a pulsing direct current. Thomas Edison built six dynamos for his Pearl Street Station in New York City—the first central station power system in the United States. It began commercial operation on Sept. 4, 1882.

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An agreement allowing a utility to use private property for a specific purpose, such as building a transmission line.

Edison Electric Institute (EEI)

The Washington, D.C.-based trade association of investor-owned utilities and electric utility holding companies.


A ratio of the work or energy output over the amount of energy input.


An Internal Revenue Service requirement under which an electric cooperative loses its tax-exempt status for the year when more than 15 percent of its revenue comes from non-member sources. The restriction can crimp the ability of electric cooperatives to compete in a restructured electricity marketplace.

Electric and magnetic fields (EMF)

Radiation surrounding power lines; present wherever electric power is being used.

Electric cooperative

A not-for-profit utility owned by those (members) who use its services. Electric cooperatives generate and purchase wholesale power, own or arrange for the transmission of that power, distribute power, and aggregate power purchases for consumers.

Electric Co-op Today

A weekly newspaper published by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association covering political, economic, research, and business issues relevant to the electric cooperative network.

Electric energy

The flow of charged particles (electrons).

Electric generation supplier (EGS)

A broker, marketer, aggregator, or electric utility generation subsidiary operating in a competitive retail power market that sells electricity to end-use consumers.

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

A non-profit research consortium made up of electric utilities, including electric cooperatives, headquartered in Palo Alto, CA.

Electric thermal storage (ETS)

A type of room heater that warms ceramic material in an insulated cabinet. Often used in load management programs because stored heat continues to be released even after power to the unit gets switched off.

Electric vehicle (EV)

A vehicle powered by electricity.


The movement of electrons in a conductor from a negatively charged point to a positively charged point.

Electricity Consumers Resource Council (ELCON)

A Washington, D.C.-based association of large industries formed in 1976 that advocates for policies promoting electric competition and consumer choice.

Electricity theft

The unlawful and dangerous practice of interfering with the operation of a meter or jumping power to another facility to lower or avoid paying electric bills.

Electronic meter reading

A system that uses a handheld computer to record and store electric use information from consumers’ meters and then transmits that information to a central computer for billing purposes.

Electrostatic precipitator

An electronic pollution-control device that removes particles of fly ash from power plant emissions.

Eminent domain

The power of a government body to condemn and use private property for public use after paying the property owner; sometimes used as a last resort by power companies constructing power lines.


The capacity for doing work; may be natural or manufactured. In an electrical context, the use of power, measured in kWh.

Energy audit

An analysis of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings that shows consumers how to save money on their electric bills by making energy efficiency-related improvements.

Energy charge

The part of an electric bill based on the amount of electricity used.

Energy efficiency

Using less energy to perform the same function.

Energy efficiency rating (EER)

A measure of how efficiently an appliance uses energy. Determined by dividing the Btu per hour output by the number of watts used. A higher EER means greater efficiency.

Energy Policy Act of 1992

A federal law that opened up the wholesale power market to competition. It gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to order transmission-owning utilities to provide interstate transmission service to other utilities, federal power marketing agencies, or independent power marketers for wholesale transactions.

Energy Policy Act of 2005

A federal law that provided tax incentives and loan guarantees for all types of energy production and conservation. The measure exempted electric cooperatives with annual electricity sales of less than 4 million MWh from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction; placed into law FERC’s regulatory exemption for electric cooperatives that borrow from the Rural Utilities Service; authorized Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to assist electric cooperatives in financing “green power” projects; and removed from 85/15 calculations electric cooperative earnings from nuclear decommissioning trust funds, income received from providing open transmission access, and (for the first seven years of consumer choice) revenue collected from non-members being served to offset load lost under retail competition.

Energy Resources Conservation loan (ERC loan)

Low-interest financing provided by some electric cooperatives to consumers for energy-saving home improvements and energy-efficient electric heating and cooling systems. Funding for ERC loans (which can’t exceed seven years in length) comes from deferred principal payments on a portion of debt owed to the federal Rural Utilities Service. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, ERC loans can be used for home energy audits as well.

Energy Star

An international standard for energy-efficient consumer products.

Environmental impact statement (EIS)

A report required by many state and federal regulators that outlines the likely environmental consequences of building and operating large-scale facilities such as power plants.

EPRI prism

A comprehensive set of seven recommendations made by the Electric Power Research Institute that the organization contends would, if adopted, allow the electric utility industry to slow, halt, and eventually decrease carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2030 while still meeting demand for affordable, reliable electricity.


The monetary value of a property or business that exceeds the claims and/or liens against it by others. In an electric cooperative, equity represents the value of member ownership.


A grain alcohol, largely produced from fermented and distilled corn; used as an octane-enhancer in gasoline.

Executive Order 7037

The directive issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 11, 1935, establishing the Rural Electrification Administration as a part of a federal unemployment relief program.

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Facilities charge

The part of a consumer’s electricity bill paid as reimbursement for equipment used to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

The federal regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that regulates prices and conditions of interstate transmission and sale of electricity and natural gas.

FERC Order 888

Issued April 24, 1996, a comprehensive final rule in connection with electric industry restructuring. Includes a finding that investor-owned utilities (IOUs) should be allowed to recover their prudently incurred costs of certain uneconomic assets and obligations. Also requires transmission owners who purchase transmission service from other to offer nondiscriminatory comparable transmission service to others seeking such services over its own facilities. This often is referred to as the FERC “open access” rule.

FERC Order 2000

Issued in 1999, this Order states that FERC-jurisdictional transmission owners are expected to join a Regional Transmission Organization on a voluntary basis. An RTO and its members can modify the RTOs structure, geographic scope, market support and operations to meet market needs.

Federal Financing Bank (FFB)

An executive department of the United States under the supervision of the Secretary of the Treasury that is the payee of certain notes, which are executed by rural electric cooperatives, guaranteed by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS, formerly known as REA), amongst others.

Federal Power Commission

A body created in 1920 to better coordinate federal hydropower development among cabinet-level departments and transformed into an independent regulatory agency in 1935. Predecessor to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Federated cooperative

A cooperative composed of smaller cooperatives.

Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange

The Lenexa, KS-based company that provides property and casualty insurance to electric cooperatives in 40 states. Formed as a stock-owned company in 1959, it became a reciprocal exchange in October 1999.

Feed-in tariff

A concept promoted by green power advocates that requires utilities to enter into long-term purchased power agreements with renewable energy producers at a price high enough to make the generation projects profitable—but not at a price reasonable for consumers.

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

A Norwalk, Conn.-based independent organization recognized as the accounting profession’s chief rulemaking body. Auditors, industry, government, and professional associations frequently submit topics to FASB to clarify various accounting issues.

Finding of No Significant Impact statement (FONSI)

A document from the federal Rural Utilities Service (RUS) stating that a given project will have no significant impact on the environmental, cultural, historical, or archeological resources of the area affected; necessary before a project funded by RUS can proceed.

Firm energy

Electricity guaranteed by a power supplier to be available at all times.

Fixed costs

Expenses that stay the same regardless of other factors or the level of sales. A distribution cooperative’s fixed costs would include rent, utilities, taxes, and depreciation on buildings.


An abnormal electrical discharge or arc, as from a high-voltage power line to a ground or between two pieces of equipment.

Flat rate

A pricing structure where consumers pay the same rate for each kWh of electricity used, regardless of how much they consume.


Practice of changing from one electric utility to another, usually due to rate differences. This practice is illegal in some states, but weak laws make it difficult to enforce.

Flue gas

The mixture of gases and fly ash leaving the furnace in a coal-based boiler.

Fluidized-bed combustion

A method of burning coal to achieve lower emissions by combining coal with limestone or other similar material held in suspension by air moving upward through the boiler.

Fly ash

Tiny solid-particles of ash that escape the furnace when coal is burned; removed by emissions control equipment.

Forced outage

The period of time during which a power plant is scheduled to operate but cannot because of breakdowns or other unforeseen circumstances.

Forced-outage rate

Expressed as a percentage, this rate represents the time a generating unit was called on to produce electricity during the year, but was unable to do so.

Form 7, RUS

A financial and statistical report filed annually by federal Rural Utilities Service borrowers.

Fossil fuels

Any naturally occurring fuel of an organic nature formed by the decomposition of plants or animals; includes coal, natural gas, and petroleum.

Freedom Mine

Located north of Beulah, ND, it is owned and operated by The Coteau Properties Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of The North American Coal Corporation. Dakota Coal Company provides financing for and markets the lignite from the Freedom Mine.

Fuel adjustment clause

A correction or modification on a consumer’s monthly electric bill caused by an increase or decrease in the cost of an electric utility’s fuel supply. This adjustment eliminates the need for a new rate approval each time fuel costs change.

Fuel cells

Devices similar to batteries that convert the chemical energy of fuels, such as hydrogen and natural gas, directly into electricity.

Fuel cost

The total cost of fuel delivered to a power plant, including freight and other transportation charges, coupled with maintenance and mine reclamation costs.


A protective device for electric circuits containing a wire designed to melt and open the circuit under abnormally high electric loads.

Fusion power

The result of a reaction where two light atoms, such as hydrogen, fuse together to form a heavier atom, such as helium. In the process, some of the hydrogen mass gets converted into energy.

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A group of processes that turn coal into combustible gas by breaking apart the coal using heat and pressure and, in many cases, with hot steam.

G&T cooperatives

Generation & transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) engage primarily in providing wholesale electric service to their members, which generally consist of several distribution cooperatives. Service by a G&T is provided from its own generating facilities or through power purchase agreements with other wholesale power suppliers.


The production of electricity using fuels such coal, natural gas, oil, and uranium or from renewable sources such as a biomass, geothermal, hydro, hydrokinetic (ocean wave and tidal), solar, or wind.


A machine in which an electromagnet rotates. It converts mechanical energy of a rotating shaft to an electric current.

Geographic information system (GIS)

Any automated setup capable of integrating, storing, editing, analyzing, sharing, and displaying spatial data, such as maps, and presenting results of all those operations.

Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium

A Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes geothermal heat pump systems.

Geothermal power

Electricity produced using natural heat contained in rocks, hot water, and steam below Earth’s surface.

Gigawatt (GW)

A measure of electric capacity equal to 1 billion W, 1 million kW, or 1,000 MWs.

Glenharold Mine

Lignite mine owned by Basin Cooperative Services, located near Stanton, ND, that use to provide lignite to fuel Basin Electric’s Leland Olds Station. Mining operations ceased at Glenharold in June 1993.

Global positioning system (GPS)

A satellite-based navigation network made up of 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for military applications, but in the late 1980s, the government began making it available for civilian use.

Global warming

A gradual warming of Earth’s atmosphere thought by some to be caused by increased concentrations of water vapor and gases like carbon dioxide. Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels increase concentrations of these “greenhouse gases,” which absorb outgoing radiation and trap heat closer to the ground.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)

A non-partisan congressional watchdog agency that audits federal programs.

Granite Peak Energy Inc.

A for-profit marketing subsidiary of Basin Electric that markets electricity in Montana under the state’s customer choice law passed in 1997.


Referring to the 40 million-plus electric cooperative consumers nationwide who give the electric cooperative program its political strength.

Greenhouse effect

A climate change phenomenon caused by the trapping of heat due to a buildup of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases in Earth’s atmosphere. James Hansen, a NASA researcher, announced the greenhouse effect in 1988.

Greenhouse gases

Carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases that may contribute to the warming of Earth’s atmosphere.

Green tags

Green tags (also known as renewable energy credits) represent the environmental attributes, or environmental benefits, resulting from the generation of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable or green energy. These attributes can be sold separately from the electricity. The money from the sales of green tags enhances the economics for the development of more green or renewable energy and encourages power producers to develop more green power.


A system of high-voltage transmission and power generating facilities that is interconnected with several other bulk power supply agencies on a regional basis. A grid enables power to be transmitted from areas having a surplus to areas experiencing a shortage.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The total market value of all goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time (usually a calendar year).

Groton Generation Station

The Groton Generation Station is situated five miles south of Groton, SD. The station has a peaking capacity of approximately 95 megawatts (MW) and is fueled by natural gas from the Northern Border Pipeline. The unit is a General Electric LMS100 simple cycle gas turbine.

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)

A fire-protection device that instantly breaks an electric circuit when a short develops.


An electric utility employee whose primary duties involve providing on-the-ground support to lineworkers.

Guaranteed loan

A loan that a third party agrees to repay if the borrower defaults; the federal Rural Utilities Service has historically acted as the third party for electric cooperative borrowers.

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Heat exchanger

A device designed to transfer heat between two physically separated fluids or mediums of different temperatures.

Heat pump

An appliance that provides both heating and cooling by moving heat into or out of a structure.

Heat sink

A medium—such as water or earth—that receives heat released from a heat pump.

Hertz (Hz)

An international measure of frequency or vibration equal to 1 cycle per second. The alternating current frequency used in North America is 60 Hz.

High voltage

Voltage in a power line higher than the 110 to 220 volts used in most residences.

Horsepower (hp)

A measure of power equal to 746 W. Abbreviation acceptable on all references.


A measure of the work performed by one horsepower exerted for one hour.

Hydroelectric plant

A facility that produces electric energy from flowing water. Some hydroelectric plants generate power by releasing water from a reservoir to drive turbine-generators. Run-of-river facilities use the natural energy of moving water from undammed waterways.

Hydroelectric power

A renewable baseload source of electric generation created by flowing water.

Hydrokinetic power

Generation produced by the action of waves or tides.


Accounts for less than 1 percent of the electricity produced by generation and transmission cooperatives but about 10 percent of electric cooperative power requirements nationwide.

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Incentive rate

A discount used to attract economic development or encourage consumption of electricity during periods of low power use.

Independent power producer (IPP)

A private entity that generates electricity and sells it to other businesses including utilities.

Independent system operator (ISO)

A neutral operator responsible for maintaining instantaneous balance of the grid system by controlling the dispatch of flexible power plants to ensure that loads match resources available.

Independent transmission provider

The entity that operates the facilities used for the transmission of energy in interstate commerce and provides transmission service under the SMD tariff. It administers the SMD tariff, the real-time day-ahead markets, and ancillary services. It operates the transmission system and does regional planning.


The process by which an electrical conductor becomes electrified when near a charged body.

Industrial rate

A special pricing structure created for industrial consumers.


Devices that support electric wires and prevent undesired flow of electricity; usually made of glass or porcelain.

Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC)

Coal, oxygen and steam are combined at high pressures to produce syngas. This resulting gas is burned in a combustion turbine to produce power. Exhaust gases are then run through a heat recovery system generator, which generates steam to run a steam turbine-generator. It's generally a more efficient process that enables easier pollutant and carbon dioxide capture. Modern designs have only been demonstrated with Eastern coals.

Integrated resource planning (IRP)

A process through which an electric utility, after evaluating ways to meet future power requirements, selects a mix of generation and demand-side management options that minimizes costs to consumers while meeting reliability and other objectives.

Integrated System (IS)

The transmission systems on the east side of the electrical transmission separation jointly operated by Western Area Power Administration, Heartland Consumers Power District and Basin Electric consistent with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission final orders and policies governing open-access transmission service.


Energy sold to one electric utility by another.


A tie permitting the flow of electricity between the facilities of two electric systems.

Intermediate plants

Intermediate plants generally have their power output increased every morning and throughout the day, and then decreased every evening. They run considerably more hours than peaking units, but fewer than base-load units. Utilities typically meet intermediate loads with older generating units that were once base-load plants, but have now been replaced by newer, more efficient units for base-load service.


A major reliability challenge associated with wind power, solar power, and hydrokinetic (ocean wave and tidal) power. Even with good location and plenty of breezes, wind generation averages only about 20 percent to 40 percent capacity factor and seldom blows on the days when power is needed most—during periods of peak demand on hot, humid summer weekday afternoons or cold days below minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Inverted rate

A pricing structure where consumers pay more per kWh as consumption increases beyond a fixed amount of kWh during a billing period.

Investment tax credit (ITC)

A federal tax incentive available to homeowners, businesses, and investor owned utilities to encourage solar power deployment. The federal Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 extended the 30 percent ITC for both residential and commercial solar installations for eight years.

Investor-owned utility (IOU)

Utilities that generate and distribute electrical energy for a profit. The IOUs are owned by stockholders who are not necessarily the users of the electric power they produce.

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Joint Marketing Program (JMP)

The joint marketing effort of Western and a number of utilities in the upper Midwest whereby the participants combine their short-term surpluses to form a more reliable product to recover a higher average price than can be obtained by each entity marketing their short-term surpluses independently. Joint marketing of short-term surpluses also results in a lower overhead cost of marketing on a mills/kilowatt-hour basis.

Journeyman lineman

An electric utility employee who has completed apprenticeship training and learned the trade for working on power lines.

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Key account

Any load deemed vital to the financial well-being of an electric cooperative, usually a large business or industry.

Kilobits per second (Kbps)

A unit of data transfer equal to 1,000 bits per second.

Kilovolt (kV)

One kilovolt is equal to 1,000 volts. The standard voltage for use in the home is 120 volts.

Kilovolt-ampere (kVa)

Equal to 1,000 VA.

Kilowatt (kW)

The basic unit of electric demand, equal to 1,000 watts. A measure of the rate of electricity generation or consumption.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh)

A unit of energy or work equal to 1,000 watt-hours. The basic measure of electric energy generation or use. A 100-watt light bulb burning for 10 hours uses one kilowatt-hour.

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Laramie River Station (LRS)

Located near Wheatland, WY, LRS is a three-unit, coal-based generating station with a 1,650-megawatt capacity. LRS and its associated facilities are owned by the six consumer-owned participants in the Missouri Basin Power Project. Basin Electric has a 42.27 percent interest in the project and is the operating agent.

Leland Olds Station (LOS)

A two-unit, coal-based generating station with a 656-megawatt capacity. LOS, located near Stanton, ND, is Basin Electric’s oldest generating plant.

License plate pricing

A pricing methodology proposed for regional transmission organizations in which transmission users only pay their own control area tariff but may use the transmission systems of many other control areas in the region. This pricing method allows users to avoid the costs of maintaining and upgrading all the systems they are able to use.

Light-emitting diode (LED)

An electronic component that emits light when an electrical current is applied in the forward direction of the units.

Lightning arrester

A device that protects electric utility equipment against damage caused by power surges from lightning strikes.


The lowest rank of coal, which is brownish black and has a high moisture content. Lignite is used mainly to generate electricity.


Reagents commonly used in flue gas desulfurization equipment (scrubbers) that combine with sulfur dioxide so that the sulfur is removed from exhaust gases.


A carrier of electricity on an electric power system.

Line loss

Electric energy lost in the process of transmitting it over power lines.


An electric utility employee who builds and maintains power lines.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG)

Methane that has been cooled and liquefied for easier long-distance transport.


The amount of electric power drawn at a specific time from an electric system, or the total power drawn from the system. Peak load is the amount of power drawn at the time of highest demand.

Load curve

A graph plotting a system’s use of electricity over a period of time.

Load factor

The ratio of average demand to peak demand. It is a measure of efficiency that indicates whether a system’s electrical use over a period of time is reasonably stable or if it has extreme peaks and valleys. A high load factor usually results in a lower average price per kilowatt-hour than a low load factor.

Load forecasting

redicting a system’s load and kWh sales growth.

Load management

An energy efficiency initiative whereby an electric utility reduces power consumption—and keeps the lid on wholesale generation costs—by controlling when electricity gets used.

Locational marginal pricing (LMP)

A market-based approach used to manage the efficient use of generation when transmission congestion occurs. LMP revolves around the idea that the price of any commodity should be based on the cost of bringing the last unit of that commodity—the one that balances supply and demand—to market.

Loop transmission

An electric distribution system that allows consumers to receive electricity from more than one direction, providing backup in case of an outage.

Loss control

Safety programs aimed at preventing or limiting financial and personnel loss from accidents.

Lurgi process

An assembly of proprietary Lurgi Company technology whose specific aim is the manufacture of synthetic natural gas from lignite-derived synthetic gas.

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Man at the end of the line

A phrase of unknown origin that has become a mantra or creed embodying the spirit of rural electrification: extending power to the last homestead in the farthest reaches of the last hollow in rural America.


Revenue in excess of expenses. Allocated cooperative margins are returned to members on a patronage basis. Margins are retained for a period to provide working capital for cooperatives.

Marginal-cost pricing

A method of establishing the selling price of a commodity based on production costs of the last, most expensive unit sold.

Market-based rate

Price for generation based solely on what can be obtained in an open marketplace. This differs from cost-of-service rates, which are tied to the cost of construction and operation of facilities necessary to produce electricity.

Market clearing price

The price of the most expensive unit delivered to the market at a given time, which is paid to all units delivering to the market at that time, in accord with the market rules. A "market-clearing price" is what all purchasers/sellers pay/get paid where there are no constraints in effect in the pricing model.

Market power

The ability of a company to raise and maintain prices (and generate profits) above competitive levels for a significant period of time.

Maximum drawdown

The lowest reservoir level at a hydroelectric plant; likely occurs during severe drought.

Means testing

The practice of limiting loans to borrowers with special eligibility criteria. For electric cooperatives, means testing was attached to the awarding of federal Rural Utilities Service (RUS) hardship insured loans under the Rural Electrification Loan Restructuring Act of 1993.

Megabits per second (Mbps)

A unit of data transfer equal to 1 million bits per second.

Megawatt (MW)

A unit of power equal to 1,000 kilowatts or one million watts.

Megawatt-hour (MWh)

The amount of megawatts generated in one hour.

Member systems

Individual cooperatives that own the G&T. The systems buy wholesale energy from the G&T, and then sell energy and services to retail customers.

Merchant plant

A generation facility built to produce electricity as a commodity and that has not committed its full output to a specific customer or customers under long-term contracts.


The combination of two or more companies with one retaining its identity.


A device used to measure and record the amount of electricity used by a consumer.


The process of determining exactly where each turbine will stand in a wind project. MET (meteorological) towers are used in micrositing. They measure wind velocity to help a project engineer determine where to place each wind turbine. While many factors influence engineers during the micrositing process, location affects power output the most. The turbines must be placed in such a way that they don't steal wind energy from each other. The turbines should be at least 1,000 feet apart, and in many cases as much as 2,500 feet apart.

Mid-Continent Area Power Pool (MAPP)

MAPP is a Minnesota-based, voluntary association of electric utilities whose members consist of investor-owned utilities, independent power producers, generation and transmission cooperatives, municipal electric utilities, public power districts, power marketers, a federal power marketing agency, and two Canadian Crown Corporations serving over 16 million people in seven Midwestern states and portions of Canada. MAPP serves its members and the public interest by operating a power pool to promote the efficiency and reliability of the bulk power system and a regional transmission tariff to provide open access to the bulk transmission system.

Mid-West Electric Consumers Association (MECA)

Represents more than 340 electric utilities In the nine-state Missouri Basin region and dedicates its resources and attention to preserving and strengthening rural electric cooperatives, municipal electrical systems, and public power districts, their associations and programs, and federal hydroelectric and water development programs that serve the public interest. Merged with Missouri Basin Systems Group (MBSG), although the group has retained the name “MECA.”

Midwest Independent System Operator (Midwest ISO)

The largest independent transmission system operator in the nation. The 14 transmission owners who have signed the Midwest ISO agreement are: Allegheny Energy, Alliant Energy, Ameren, CILCO, Cinergy, Commonwealth Edison, Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative, Illinois Power, LG&E Corporation, Northern States Power, Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, Southern Indiana Gas & Electric, Wabash Valley Power Association, and Wisconsin Electric. With this membership, utilities with 57,000 miles of transmission lines and 87,000 megawatts of electric generation serving customers in 284,000 square miles of service territory are participating in the Midwest ISO. As now constituted, Midwest ISO will control more than $8 billion in installed assets and extend into more than 14 states.

Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO)

The Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO) is one of 10 Regional Reliability Councils that comprise the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). The MRO is a voluntary association committed to safeguarding reliability of the electric power system in the north central region of North America. The essential purpose of this regional reliability organization is the development, implementation, and enforcement of compliance with North American and regional electric reliability standards. The MRO region includes more than forty members supplying approximately 280 million megawatt-hours to more than 20 million people. The MRO membership is comprised of municipal utilities, cooperatives, investor-owned utilities, a federal power marketing agency, Canadian Crown Corporations, and independent power producers. The MRO region spans eight states and two Canadian provinces covering roughly one million square miles. Membership solicitation is ongoing. Basin Electric Power Cooperative is a member.


One-tenth of a cent. Used as a measure of electric energy bought and sold.

Missouri Basin Power Project (MBPP)

A power supply project that owns the Laramie River Station. Its participants include Wyoming Municipal Power Agency, Lusk, WY; Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Denver, CO; Missouri River Energy Services of Sioux Falls, SD; Heartland Consumers Power District, Madison, SD; Lincoln Electric System, Lincoln, NE; and Basin Electric. Basin Electric has a 42.27 percent interest in the project and is the operating agent.

Montana Limestone Company (MLC)

A subsidiary of Dakota Coal company, acquired in 2001. Located near Warren, MT, the MLC quarry supplies raw limestone to Wyoming Lime Producer’s kiln near Frannie, WY. It also markets limestone for commercial applications.


Electric distribution system owned by a city to provide service for its residents. Refers to a municipality that has its own electrical generating and distribution systems and/or purchases electricity at wholesale from another electrical supplier.

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Can be used for motor gasoline blending and can supply other petrochemical feedstocks. It’s a byproduct of the Synfuels Plant’s coal gasification process.

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for six principal pollutants considered to be harmful to public health and the environment.

National Electrical Safety Code (NESC)

Developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, it sets ground rules for worker safety during the installation, operation, and maintenance of electric and telecommunication lines and associated equipment.

National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO)

An organization founded in 2008 to assist electric cooperatives in gaining access to power generated from renewable resources.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

Formed in 1942 and represents the national interests of more than 1,000 rural electric systems. NRECA provides legislative services and programs in management training, insurance, public relations and advertising –all designed to help rural electric systems serve their consumer-owners effectively and efficiently.

National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC)

Provides financing to rural electric and telephone cooperatives. Class A members of CFC are rural electric distribution systems and G&T or telephone cooperatives. An associate member can be any non-electric not-for-profit business or cooperative that is owned, operated or controlled by a Class A member. CFC will provide loans to qualifying associate members for community development projects, such as water or sewer systems, or ambulance or cable and satellite television services.

National Utility Training & Safety Education Association (NUTSEA)

An organization whose primary activities involve job training, safety education, and safety program administration for electric cooperatives and related organizations.

Natural gas

A gaseous fossil fuel consisting primarily of methane but including significant quantities of ethane, propane, butane, and pentane used for electric generation, heating, cooking, and public transportation. Natural gas, most commonly used as a fuel for peaking plants rather than baseload generation, accounts for about 7 percent of the power produced by generation and transmission cooperatives and 11 percent of all electric cooperative power requirements nationwide.

Net generation

The total amount of electricity produced at a power plant less the amount of electricity used by the plant itself.

Net metering

An incentive where owners of small renewable energy systems receive retail credit for at least a portion of the electricity they generate. In its pure form, a consumer’s electric meter will spin backwards whenever he/she uses less power than the renewable energy system produces, effectively banking excess electricity production for future credit.

New Source Review (NSR)

A provision in the federal Clean Air Act of 1977 that requires installation of expensive, state-of-the-art pollution controls—like scrubbers—when equipment at a coal-fired power plant, refinery, or factory undergoes an upgrade or operational change deemed to be a “major modification.”

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla is best known for many revolutionary contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power (AC) systems, including the polyphase power distribution systems and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution. Contemporary biographers of Tesla have regarded him as "The Father of Physics", "The man who invented the twentieth century"[2] and "the patron saint of modern electricity."[3]


Readily vaporizes in air to a colorless, odorless gas that is used as a cryogenic refrigerant. Liquid nitrogen removes heat from its surroundings as it vaporizes. It is a Synfuels Plant byproduct.

Nitrogen oxides

Compounds of nitrogen and oxygen formed when fossil fuels burn and a leading contributor to smog.

Non-coincident demand

The highest demand for power by a consumer or class of consumers that occurs at a different time than a power supplier’s system peak demand.

Non-coincidental peak

The sum of two or more utility system load peaks that do not occur during the same time.

Non-firm power

Generation or power-producing capacity supplied or available under a commitment having limited availability.


An organization engaging in public interest activities, such as humanitarian, charitable, educational, or environmental efforts, and that obtains money for services without seeking to realize a profit. Non-profits do things for people in a relationship of dependency. Electric cooperatives, in contrast, as self-help organizations, are considered not-for-profit.

Non-utility generator

A corporation, person, agency, authority, or other entity that owns electric generating capacity and is not defined as a utility under state or federal law.

North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC)

The primary industry organization for developing reliability standards for the operation and planning of the bulk electric systems serving North America. This mission of NERC is to ensure that the bulk electric system in North America is reliable, adequate and secure. Formed by the electric utility industry in 1968, NERC consists of 10 Regional Reliability Councils encompassing virtually all of the power systems in the United States and Canada. NOTE: NERC is in the process of becoming the North American Electric Reliability Organization (NAERO). Regional Councils: East Central Area Reliability Coordination Agreement (ECAR) Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT) Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC) Mid-America Interconnected Network, Inc. (MAIN) Includes portions of Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan and affiliate members across Northwest Indiana. Mid-Atlanta Area Council (MAAC) Mid-Continent Area Power Pool (MAPP) Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC) Southeastern Electric Reliability Council (SERC) Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (SPP) Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC)

North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB)

The primary industry forum for development and promotion of business practice and electronic communication standards in North American wholesale and retail natural gas and electricity markets.


An incorporated, self-help organization established with the sole purpose of providing a service at the lowest possible cost and where ownership lies with stakeholders (users) and not outside investors. Not-for-profit entities, such as cooperatives and credit unions, maintain a surplus of income over expenditures but use that excess revenue to improve service and return it to stakeholders.

Nuclear fission

The energy produced by splitting atoms (such as uranium) in a nuclear reactor.

Nuclear power

A method whereby steam, produced from water heated to a boil through nuclear fission, spins a turbine to generate electricity. In nuclear power plants, a reactor contains a core of nuclear fuel, primarily enriched uranium. When uranium atoms are hit by neutrons they fission (split), releasing heat and more neutrons. Under controlled conditions, the neutrons keep striking more uranium atoms, creating a self-sustaining chain reaction used to boil water.

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Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Federal agency that sets standards for safe work places and enforces them through periodic inspections.

Ocean wave power

A form of hydrokinetic power that converts mechanical energy from the constant rising and falling of ocean waves into electricity. Most ocean wave power systems rely on buoy technology to run a piston that in turn drives a generator.

Off-peak power

Electricity supplied during periods of low consumption.

Off-peak rate

A pricing structure where consumers pay special low charges for electricity used during times of low consumption.

Offset rate

A pricing structure where a cooperative passes along certain charges to consumers.


The amount of resistance overcome by 1 V in causing 1 A to flow. An ohm measures resistance to current flow in electrical circuits.

Ohm’s Law

A formula that holds the strength of an unvarying electrical circuit is directly proportional to the electromotive force and inversely proportional to the resistance of the circuit. In other words, voltage is equal to current multiplied by resistance. Use the following formula: E = I x R, where E is voltage in volts, I is current in amperes, and R is resistance in ohms.


A liquid fossil fuel found in rock formations consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and other organic compounds. Refined and distilled, it can be turned into a variety of products such as asphalt, diesel fuel, gasoline, heating oil, jet fuel, kerosene, lubricants, paraffin wax, sulfuric acid, tar, and aromatic chemicals.

Oil-circuit recloser (OCR)

A device that protects electric lines by momentarily interrupting service when a fault occurs, then restoring power automatically after the fault clears. This keeps outages from occurring when temporary problems arise, such as tree branches touching a line.


A generating plant that’s operating is on-line.

Open access

Permitting wholesale power suppliers and sellers to move their power over the transmission lines of other utilities.


Open Access Same-Time Information System (OASIS) is a key provision to the Federal Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Open Access/Stranded Cost rules. It’s a system for utilities to electronically communicate information about their transmission systems and services to all potential customers at the same time.

Operating expenses

Costs needed to generate electricity, such as those associated with running a power plant, maintenance, taxes, and depreciation.

Operating income

The amount of money remaining to a utility after operating expenses are deducted from operating revenues.

Operating reserve

Generating capacity available within a short period of time to meet demand in case a power plant goes down or another supply disruption occurs. Most power systems are designed so that, under normal conditions, the operating reserve always matches the capacity of the largest generator plus a fraction of peak load. The operating reserve can be divided into spinning reserves and supplemental reserves.

Operating revenues

Money a utility receives from selling goods and services.


Interruption of service to an electric consumer because a power plant, transmission line or other facility is not operating.


The material overlying a valuable mineral such as a coal seam.

Ozone layer

A section of the upper atmosphere containing concentrations of a form of oxygen that screens out ultraviolet radiation.

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Pad-mount transformer

An electric transformer mounted on the ground, usually on concrete, and seen most often in housing developments with limited overhead line construction.

Passive solar energy

Radiation from sunlight that can be used to provide heat and light without complicated machinery; typically controlled by building design and location.

Peak demand

The greatest simultaneous electric demand of all utility consumers within a defined period, normally the highest 30-minute period of a 30-day billing period.

Peak load

The amount of electric power required by a consumer or a utility system during times when electric consumption reaches its highest point; measured in kW or MW.

Peaking plant

An electric generating unit, usually burning natural gas or diesel fuel, that operates for a short time during periods of high electricity consumption.


A Synfuels Plant byproduct that is a flammable, colorless, oily liquid used for the manufacture of adhesives such as plywood glue. Phenol resins are also used for laminates and molding compounds.

Photovoltaics (PV)

Technology for generating electric power directly from sunlight.

Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership (PCOR)

A Department of Energy regional carbon sequestration partnership developed to better understand the technical and economic feasibility of sequestering CO2 emissions from stationary sources in the central interior of North America.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)

A car or truck that relies on the combination of a gasoline or diesel engine and lithium-ion batteries for propulsion.

Pole-mount transformer

An electric transformer mounted on a utility pole.

Postage stamp rate

See entry for “system-wide average pricing.”


An electric generating station.

Power line

A conductor (wire) that carries electricity from a generation source to a supplier or the ultimate consumer.

Powerline carrier

A system for carrying data over an electric power line.

Power marketer

A person or entity that sells power to all classes of electric customers, including residential, commercial and industrial users but does not necessarily own its own generation or transmission facilities.

Power marketing administrations (PMAs)

The umbrella term for the Alaska Power Administration (APA), Bonneville Power Administration (13PA), the Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA), the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA) and the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA). The federally owned PMAs sell power produced at federal hydropower projects, giving first priority to consumer-owned systems such as co-ops or municipals and making that power available at the cost of production under the Preference Principle.

Power pool

Two or more electric systems that are interconnected and operated on a coordinated basis to achieve economies and reliability in supplying their combined loads.

Power supplier

A company that provides electricity, either by generating it or by arranging for its delivery to a consumer.

Preference principle

An antimonopoly measure authorized by Congress that gives publicly owned municipal electric systems (since 1906) and not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives (since creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933) first right, or preference, to purchase hydropower produced at federal dams.

Price to compare

The cost per kWh for generation and transmission from a local utility that a competitive electric generation supplier has to beat for a consumer to save money.

Public power district (PPD)

Locally controlled political subdivisions within the state of Nebraska, similar to a county, formed to distribute electricity on a not-for-profit basis across a specified service area. PPDs (some are called rural public power districts, or RPPDs) differ from electric cooperatives in that they are not required to retain and return capital credits or hold annual meetings, and directors are elected on the state general election ballot (candidates only need to reside within the PPD/RPPD’s boundaries, not be connected to its power lines).

Public utilities

Private, for-profit, and state-regulated businesses that provide an essential commodity or service, such as water, electricity, natural gas, or cable TV. Also, entities selling wholesale power or providing interstate transmission service subject to regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Public Utility Company Holding Act (PUCHA)

PUCHA was enacted to break up the large and powerful trusts that controlled the nation’s electric and gas distribution networks. Gave the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the authority to break up the trusts and to regulate the reorganized industry in order to prevent their return. Abolished all holding companies that were more than twice removed from their operating subsidiaries and required that holding companies must get approval from the SEC to purchase property or securities from another company.

Public utility district (PUD)

A political entity, similar to a school district, formed in Washington, California, and Oregon (where they’re called people’s utility districts) to distribute electricity on a not for-profit basis across a specified service area. PUDs differ from electric cooperatives in that they are not required to retain and return capital credits or hold annual meetings, and commissioners (i.e. directors) are elected on the state general election ballot (candidates only need to reside within the PUD’s boundaries, not be connected to its power lines).

Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)

Passed in response to the unstable energy climate of the late 1970s. Sought to promote conservation of electric energy. Additionally, PURPA created a new class of non-utility generators, small power producers, from which, along with qualified cogenerators, utilities are required to buy power. PURPA was in part intended to augment electric utility generation with more efficiently produced electricity and to provide equitable rates to electric consumers. Utility companies are required to buy all electricity from “Qfs”—qualifying facilities—at avoided cost. Expanded participation of non-utility generators in the electricity market, and demonstrated that electricity from non-utility generators could successfully be integrated with a utility’s own supply. Requires utilities to buy whatever power is produced by Qfs (usually cogeneration or renewable energy).

Pulverized coal

A mainstay of the utility industry, PC technology is used in most of Basin Electric's baseload units. Coal is finely crushed and combined with air in a boiler, where combustion takes place to heat water into steam, which turns the turbine-generator. Variations of PC designs include subcritical (typical steam pressure), supercritical (higher steam pressure), and oxyfuel firing, which uses pure oxygen rather than air to combine with the pulverized coal. Supercritical units have higher boiler efficiencies than subcritical units.

Purchased power

Wholesale power bought through a long-term contract or off the spot market.

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Number of members who must be present for an electric cooperative to legally conduct business. Usually established in a cooperative’s bylaws.

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The cost per kilowatt-hour for electricity.

Rate base

The total value of a utility’s plants, transmission lines, buildings, and other equipment.

REA circus

A federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA) traveling road show that demonstrated electric appliances and products for agricultural and home use. Officially called the REA Farm Equipment Tour, it ran from October 1938 until the end of 1941.

Reactive power

The portion of power flow due to stored energy that returns to the source in each alternating current cycle.


A complex machine that uses boiling water to produce steam, which in turns spins a turbine to generate electricity. Heat for boiling the water comes through the fission, or splitting, of uranium atoms.

Real power

The portion of power flow that, when averaged over a complete alternating current cycle, results in the net transfer of energy in one direction.

Real-time pricing

A method of setting rates where the retail rate for electricity varies on an hourly or more frequent basis as the price of wholesale power changes.

Recovered Energy

Technology used to recover the heat energy that is released as an unused byproduct from an existing industrial process. An example is the recovered energy projects recently commissioned for Basin Electric. These projects involve the capture of the hot exhaust gases released by combustion turbines as they drive compressors to propel natural gas down the pipeline. Also known as waste heat recovery, these projects capture and use heat that would otherwise be lost, if not recovered through this process.

Red Flags rule

Federal Trade Commission regulation aimed at stemming the tide of identity theft. It required electric cooperatives, like all utilities with “covered accounts,” to implement identity theft prevention programs by November 1, 2008. Enforcement of the rule was later delayed until May 1, 2009.

Regional transmission association (RTA)

Predecessors of regional transmission organizations (see below). A group of utilities that has a dispute resolution process and does joint planning, but each utility has its own separate tariff

Regional transmission organization (RTO)

An organization formed by, but independent of, transmission-owning utilities that is responsible for ensuring nondiscriminatory open transmission access and the planning and security of the combined bulk transmission systems of utilities within a given geographic region. These are also called Independent System Operators (ISO).


A governmental order carrying the force of law.


Every utility’s goal of providing uninterrupted electric service to consumers.

Renewable portfolio standard (RPS)

A policy set by federal or state governments that a percentage of the electricity supplied by generators be derived from a renewable source.


Sources of energy that are naturally replenishable, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro, and hydrokinetic (ocean wave and tidal) power.


Returning governmental jurisdiction over an industry previously freed of such control.


The difference between the amount of electricity produced at a given time and what could be produced. The calculation is based on what generating units are actually available at the time. A unit on outage would not be part of the reserve.


Changes made in the electric utility industry to promote competition. Also refers to the reorganization of an electric utility.

Retail wheeling

A system in which individual retail electric customers are allowed to choose their electric energy supplier. A retail consumer could contract with a remote electric supplier to send energy through the system to which that consumer is connected.


Installation or replacement of equipment at an existing power plant.


A strip of land owned by another party on which a utility places poles, wires, substations, and other facilities. Sometimes acquired through eminent domain.

Rocky Mountain Generation Cooperative (RMGC)

A brokering organization that sells on a coordinated basis the surplus electricity of its members. Its members are Basin Electric, Wyoming Municipal Power Agency, Municipal Power Agency of Nebraska, Western Area Power Administration and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

Rolling blackouts

Controlled power outages designed to lessen the threat of an overload or cascading outage of major transmission systems brought on by short supply and high demand for power.

Rural Electric Management Development Council (REMDC)

An organization of electric cooperatives founded in 1958 that explores ways to improve management effectiveness.

Rural Electric Safety Accreditation Program (RESAP)

A peer-review evaluation of electric cooperative safety and loss control programs administered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Rural Electric Statewide Managers Association (RESMA)

An organization made up of electric cooperative statewide association chief executives.

Rural electrification

Wording that describes the introduction of electricity into rugged and remote areas previously not served by investor-owned or government-run power companies.

Rural Electrification Act

Legislation signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 21, 1936, that provided official status to the federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA) as a lending agency for electric cooperatives.

Rural Utilities Service (RUS)

A program of the Rural Economic and Community Development agency, which is one of six basic mission areas of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). RUS houses the rural electric, telephone and water/wastewater loan programs and was authorized by the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994. RUS replaced the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).

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Equipment that removes sulfur dioxide from combustion gases using a chemical reaction. Whether a scrubber is “wet” or “dry” depends on the amount of water used in the process and the state of the new compound formed from the chemical reaction.

Service area/territory

The geographic region that a utility is required to serve, or has the exclusive right to serve, in supplying electricity to the ultimate consumer.

Short, short circuit

Establishment of an accidental or unintended electrical conducting path that bypasses the planned route from an electric power source to the intended load or appliance.

Single-phase power

An electric circuit that consists of one alternating current.


A residue produced by the combustion of coal. This heat-fused material accumulates on the sides and bottom of a boiler and is removed periodically and disposed of according to environmental regulations.

Small power producer

An entity that generates electricity primarily from a renewable energy system with capacity under 80 MW. As defined by the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, small power producers can use some fossil fuels as part of their generation but renewables must provide at least 75 percent of the total energy input.

Smart grid

The use of technologies (such as advanced meter infrastructure and down-line automation) that help electric utilities better meet consumers’ needs reliably and affordably by more effectively monitoring consumer demand and system conditions on a near real-time basis.

Smart meter

A type of advanced electric meter that identifies consumption in detail over various time intervals and communicates that information via a network back to a local utility for power quality monitoring and billing purposes.

Solar power

Energy absorbed from photons (elementary particles) in sunlight and converted into heat or electricity.

Solar thermal energy

Technology that harnesses sunlight for heat and characterized by three types: low temperature, medium temperature and high temperature.

Souris Valley Pipeline Limited

A wholly owned, for-profit Canadian subsidiary of Dakota Gasification Company formed to own and maintain 35 miles of carbon dioxide pipeline in Canada.


An increase in voltage lasting less than 1/60th of a second. Usually caused by switching of heavy loads.

Spinning reserve

Extra generating capacity available from a power plant on short notice in case another generating station on the system goes down.

Spirit Mound Station (SMS)

Basin Electric’s two-unit, oil-fired generating station for peak- and emergency-demand periods. Located near Vermillion, SD, Spirit Mound has a 104-megawatt capacity.

Spot market

A commodity exchange that allows producers of surplus power to instantly locate available buyers, negotiate prices within milliseconds, and deliver the actual energy just a few minutes later.

State Implementation Plan (SIP)

A State Implementation Plan (SIP) details how a state will meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines these standards and oversees the SIPs.

Statewide organizations

A service organization for electric cooperatives in one or more states. They represent members’interests and coordinate such services as communications, training, purchasing, billing and research. Statewide organizations are financed through dues from members and revenues from services. They vary in size and resources. Each state in Basin Electric’s service area has a statewide office.

Step rate

A pricing structure where consumers pay a different amount depending on kWh used; the more a consumer uses, the cheaper the cost of each kWh.

Stranded benefits

Positive actions many regulators and consumer groups argue will be lost under electric industry competition. These include environmental protection, energy efficiency, low-income ratepayer assistance, and community service programs.

Stranded costs

Assets owned by utilities that become uneconomical in a competitive marketplace. Primary examples of stranded costs include power plants or transmission lines.

Strip mining

Extracting coal from underground seams by digging pits with giant shovels called draglines.

Subbituminous coal

A form of coal found in the Western states. It has a lower heat content than harder coal and a low sulfur content. Most of it lies near the surface. It has a medium capability of producing heat.


A business controlled by another enterprise, called the parent company, but with its own identity, including charter, officers, and board of directors.


A location where transmission voltage is reduced to distribution voltage. Usually a fenced area containing transformers, voltage regulators, switches, devices and metering equipment.

Subtransmission system

The poles, lines, and wires used to interconnect a high-voltage transmission network with a distribution system.


Chemical compounds of sulfur contained in many fossil fuels.

Sulfur dioxide

A poisonous gas created during the combustion of fossil fuels when sulfates combine with oxygen.


Materials that carry electric current without friction and, as a result, don’t waste energy by producing heat.

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)

A distribution monitoring system that provides data from substations, feeders, control breakers, and switches; manages demand-response/load management efforts; keeps an eye on down-line devices; and controls capacitors.

Supplemental reserve

Extra generating capacity not connected to an electric system that can be brought on-line after a short delay. Often involves importing power from an interconnected system or reducing power exports.

Supply-side management

Activities conducted on the utility’s side of an electric meter.


Overvoltages lasting longer than one-sixtieth of a second, often caused by the automatic switching on or off of motor-driven devices or lightning strikes near a power line.

Surge suppressor

A device that protects consumer electronic equipment and appliances from short-term, high-voltage flows of electricity such as lightning strikes.


Any gaseous mixture generated by the gasification of a carbon-containing fuel, such as coal, or municipal waste. Also includes the steam reforming of natural gas or oil to produce hydrogen.

Synthetic fuel

Combustible liquid obtained from coal, natural gas, biomass, or other solids such as oil shale, tar sand, and waste plastics.

System demand

The total amount of energy required to supply all consumers served by a utility or within a region.

System-wide average pricing (postage stamp)

A pricing methodology proposed for regional transmission organizations for which transmission users all pay the same tariff to send electricity anywhere in the region. This pricing method facilitates needed transmission system improvements because maintenance and upgrades are included in the tariff.

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An electric circuit with limited capacity extending from a distribution line; usually supplies a small number of consumers.


A statement of a utility’s rates, terms, and conditions of service as filed with a utility regulatory body.

Tariff rate

The cost to use a particular utility’s transmission system.

Territorial dispute

A disagreement between two utilities about which one has the right to deliver electricity to a particular service area or consumer.

Territorial integrity

Legally supported right of an electric utility not to have consumers in its franchised service territory connected to the lines of another electric utility.


A measure of heat equal to 100,000 British thermal units (Btu).

Three-phase power

An electric circuit that consists of three separate currents delivered at one-third cycle intervals by means of three wires; typically used to power large industrial motors that operate at 230 V or higher.

Tidal power

A form of hydrokinetic power that converts mechanical energy from the motion of tides into electricity.

Time-of-use metering

Measures both electric consumption and time of use.

Time-of-use rate

A pricing structure where the cost for electricity varies according to the time when it’s consumed. Time-of-use rates can include on/off-peak rates, critical-peak pricing, dynamic pricing, and real-time pricing.


A facility that loads coal onto trucks or rail cars.

Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives

An alliance of more than 600 cooperatives in 44 states that collectively deliver power and energy solutions to more than 17 million customers. It is a branding initiative that communicates electric cooperatives’ unique characteristics in a changing marketplace.


A device used to raise or lower voltage in electric distribution or transmission lines.


The process of moving large amounts of electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s used, as well as the facilities needed to move that power.

Transmission congestion

A condition that occurs when a transmission system operates at full capacity and proper efficiency, yet still can’t supply all consumers.

Transmission system

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 machine with fan-like blades on a shaft. Steam under pressure pushes against the blades to turn the shaft. The shaft turns electromagnets in a generator to make electricity.


A steam, gas, air, or water-driven turbine coupled directly to a generator that produces electricity.

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Splitting operations of an electric utility into separate generation, transmission, and distribution components.

Underground residential distribution (URD)

Electric distribution conduit that runs below the surface, often in housing developments with limited overhead line construction.

Uninterruptible power supply (UPS)

A device typically used to protect computers, telecommunications equipment, or other electric-using appliances where an unexpected power disruption could cause injuries, fatalities, or data loss.


A single and independent electric generating facility that may be part of a larger station.


A soft, radioactive metal and the heaviest natural element; used as a fuel for nuclear energy. One pound of enriched uranium contains nearly 3 million times the energy contained in a pound of coal.

USDA Rural Development

A mission area of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that combines rural electric, water, environmental, telecommunications, distance learning, and telemedicine programs. These programs are administered primarily through three agencies: Rural Utilities Service, Rural Business- Cooperative Service, and Rural Housing and Community Development Service.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The federal cabinet-level department responsible for implementing national farm, rural development, and nutrition policy.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

The federal cabinet-level department responsible for implementing national energy policy.

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

A mission area within the U.S. Department of Energy that seeks to strengthen America’s energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality by bringing clean, reliable, and affordable energy technologies to the marketplace through public-private partnerships.

Used and useful

Requirement that before fixed assets of a generating plant may be included in a utility’s rate base, the plant in question must be in operation (used) and be needed to provide service to the public (useful).

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

The highly respected statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

A federal bureau with cabinet-level status that oversees the nation’s environmental science, research, education, and assessment efforts. One of its primary duties involves developing and enforcing rules and regulations for environmental protection.


An entity (whether investor-owned, cooperative, or municipal) that provides electric, water, or natural gas service for residential, commercial, and industrial consumption.

Utility Data Institute (UDI)

A Washington, D.C.-based research firm that tracks trends in the electric utility industry.

Utility plant

Fixed assets of a utility.

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Vertically integrated utility

An electricity provider that owns generation, transmission, and distribution facilities.

Volt (V)

A unit of electric force that measures the pressure of electricity. It is comparable to water pressure in a hose.


An electromotive force that acts like water pressure and causes electrons to flow. Voltage measures the potential for current flow and may exist between objects without an actual flow of current.


The basic unit of electric power; figured as the product of a system’s voltage multiplied by amperes.

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Watt (W)

The standard unit of electric power, named for James Watt, a 19th-century Scottish engineer. A measure of the power that can be generated by an electric current; equal to 1/746 horsepower.

Watt-hour (Wh)

Energy converted or consumed at a rate of one watt during a period of one hour.

Western Area Power Administration (Western)

The federal agency that markets hydroelectric power to rural electric cooperatives and public power systems in 15 central and western states, including members of Basin Electric.

Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC)

WECC is one of the 10 electric reliability councils in North America, encompassing a geographic area equivalent to over half the United States. It is responsible for promoting electric system reliability and providing a forum for coordinating the operating and planning activities of its 145 member systems.  The members, representing all segments of the electric industry, provide electricity to 71 million people in 14 Western states, two Canadian provinces, and portions of one Mexican state

Western Fuels Association

A national fuel supply cooperative for consumer-owned utilities headquartered in Washington, DC. Western Fuels supplies coal for the Missouri Basin Power Project’s Laramie River Station in Wyoming and other power plants in the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and Southwest areas of the United States, as well as Louisiana. Basin Electric operates the Laramie River Station and is one of the original incorporators of Western Fuels.

Western States Power Pool (WSPP)

Formed in 1991, a corporation in which more than 220 members buy and sell electricity under a standardized contract. Operating and executive committees run the organization, but each member gets to vote on any changes in operating procedures. Action is taken by consensus of 90 percent of the voting members. Regulated and approved by FERC.


Delivering large amounts electricity from a generating plant to a distribution system across another utility’s transmission lines.

Wholesale competition

A market-based system under which an electricity supplier has the option to buy power for resale from a variety of generation providers.

Wholesale power market

A system that allows trading between generators, retailers, and financial intermediaries both for short-term (spot price) and future (forward price) electricity delivery periods.

William J. Neal Station (WJN)

A former coal-based generating station with a 47-megawatt capacity that Basin Electric owned. The William J. Neal Station was located near Velva, ND. It has been dismantled.

Wind farm

A group number of large wind turbines built close together.

Wind power

Converting the kinetic energy present in wind motion to produce electricity.

Wind turbine

A device that, by capturing the wind’s energy with two or three propeller-like blades mounted on a rotor, generates electricity.

Wires charge

Fee imposed on retail consumers for wheeling power through a local distribution system. This charge would cover the cost of providing distribution service and may also include additional charges levied by regulators, such as supporting energy efficiency programs and renewable energy sources, and possibly stranded costs.

Wyoming Distributed Generation Project (WDG)

Located in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the WDG Project, consisting of nine natural gas fired combustion turbine generators (CTGs), supplies energy and voltage support to Basin Electric’s largest member, Powder River Energy Corporation (PRECorp). The CTGs are remotely operated on an as-needed basis from the Antelope Valley Station near Beulah, ND.

Wyoming Lime Producers (WLP)

A division of Dakota Coal Company that owns a lime kiln near Frannie, WY, that began operating in 1993.

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A Synfuels plant byproduct used in high intensity lamps such as projector bulbs and in laser applications.

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Yaw drive

Upwind wind turbines face into the wind; the yaw drive keeps the rotor facing into the wind as its direction changes. Downwind turbines don’t require a yaw drive; the wind blows the rotor downwind.

Yaw motor

The motor that powers a yaw drive.

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