We know that energy policy can look like alphabet soup. Here’s a translation of some of the more common acronyms, abbreviations and policy concepts from Freeing the Grid:
Board of Public Utilities (BPU): A state or local authority responsible for regulating utilities, typically with a mandate of ensure safe, adequate, and proper utility services at reasonable rates for customers in its jurisdiction. See also PSC and PUC.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP): Thermal power stations lose some amount of energy as a heat by-product. CHP, also known as co-generation, captures that excess heat so the plant generates both electricity and useful heat energy.
Community Shared Solar: A model for shared solar projects that is designed to expand access to energy consumers who are unable to go solar on their own home or business. Participants receive credit on their utility bills for their portion of the clean power generated, much as if those systems were located at their own home or business.
Distributed Generation (DG): Electricity generation from many small energy sources located near demand, such as rooftop solar energy systems (as opposed to electricity generation from centralized power stations).
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE): A comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. The database is an ongoing project of IREC and the North Carolina Solar Center.
Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct): A catalyst for a significant amount of state action as it modified the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) to require state public utility commissions to “consider” standards for net metering and interconnection.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): The United States federal agency with jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales, wholesale electric rates, hydroelectric licensing, natural gas pricing, and oil pipeline rates.
Investor-Owned Utility (IOU): A utility managed by private interests as a business enterprise rather than by a municipal government or a cooperative body.
Interconnection (IC): The rules and processes by which an distributed energy system is “plugged into” the utility grid.
Kilowatt (kW): A unit equivalent to 1,000 watts of electrical power. It is commonly used to measure the output capacity of a renewable energy system.
Kilowatt-Hour (kWh): A unit of energy equivalent to one kilowatt of power expended for one hour. It is commonly used by electric utilities as a billing unit for energy delivered to consumers.
Megawatt (MW): A unit equivalent to 1,000 kilowatts of electrical power. Larger renewable energy systems for businesses and public buildings are often measured in megawatts.
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC): An association representing the interests of utility regulatory bodies from all 50 states before the three branches of Federal Government.
Net Excess Generation (NEG): The amount of electricity, if any, generated by an on-site renewable energy system that exceeds the customer’s electricity requirements for a specified time period (ie: monthly or annually).
Net Energy Metering (NEM): A billing arrangement by which customers receive credit on their utility bills for energy generated by their on-site renewable energy system.
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): A financing arrangement in which a third-party developer owns, operates, and maintains a renewable energy system, and a host customer agrees to purchase the system’s electric output for a predetermined period. Most energy consumers use a PPA to go solar rather than purchasing the system themselves.
Public Utilities Commission (PUC): A state authority responsible for regulating utilities, typically with a mandate of ensure safe, adequate, and proper utility services at reasonable rates for customers in its jurisdiction. See also PSC and BPU.
Public Service Commission (PSC): A state authority responsible for regulating utilities, typically with a mandate of ensure safe, adequate, and proper utility services at reasonable rates for customers in its jurisdiction. See also PUC and BPU.
Photovoltaic (PV): A method of generating electrical power by converting sunlight directly into electricity through semiconducting solar panels.
Renewable Energy Credit (REC): An asset representing the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects, which can be traded, bought and sold separate from commodity electricity.
Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): The policy that require utilities to use renewable energy or renewable energy credits (RECs) to account for a certain percentage of their retail electricity sales — or a certain amount of generating capacity — by a certain date.
Time-of-Use (TOU): An approach to utility rate structuring in which the price depends on the time at which the electricity is delivered. Typically, TOU arrangements result in higher prices during mid-day when electricity demand is at its highest and lower prices during off-peak hours.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL): An independent organization that provides safety testing and certification for solar panels and many other products.
Virtual Net Metering (VNM): A billing arrangement that allows multiple energy customers to receive net metering credit from a shared onsite or remote renewable energy system much as if it was located behind the customer’s own meter.