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Energy 101: Key Energy Industry Terms

What is a kilowatt-hour? What are renewable energy sources? And what exactly is the power grid? In this ‘Energy 101’ series, our goal is to help you better understand energy terms that power your daily tasks.

Energy 101: Key Energy Industry Terms

Having a basic understanding of what these terms mean empowers you to become an informed energy consumer. With today's busy lifestyles, we don't take time to think about the electric power that makes it all possible: from modern-day conveniences and appliances at home, to the devices we depend on, at our schools, churches, businesses and work—electricity is the driver that makes it happen. We encourage you to understand it better.


A system of synchronized power providers and consumers connected by transmission and distribution lines and operated by control centers. This web of interconnections enables utilities and suppliers to share resources on a regional basis. In the continental U.S., the electric power grid consists of the Eastern Interconnect, the Western Interconnect, and the Texas Interconnect. Oklahoma is in the Eastern Interconnect.


A large, efficient generating station that provides dependable electric power 24/7. Coal-fired, nuclear and large natural gas-fired power plants make up most baseload generation in the U.S. These plants are dispatched as needed to meet consumer load. Contrary to renewable energy sources that are intermittent, baseload power generates at a constant rate and “covers” where renewable energy lacks on the delivery of constant power.


Sources of energy that are naturally replenishable, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro, and hydrokinetic (ocean wave and tidal), but are flow-limited. Renewable generation accounts for 2 percent of power owned by co-ops (2016 data); and 13 percent of electric co-op power nationwide, which includes power-purchase agreements (2014 data). Nationwide, renewables account for 15 percent of power generated at utility-scale facilities (2016 data).


The maximum output, measured in megawatts or kilowatts, that generating equipment can supply to a system load, adjusted by varying conditions. It can also mean the electric load, measured in watts or kilowatts, of a piece of electrical equipment. A capacity factor is the ratio of actual net electric energy generation to the maximum possible energy that could have been generated if a plant operated at its maximum capacity rating over the same time.


The process of moving large amounts of electricity from where it’s generated to the next step in the path of electricity: distribution substations and powerlines. Transmission is the bridge between generation and distribution of electric power. A transmission system is an interconnected network of lines, poles, wires, and other equipment that move large amounts of electricity from generating plants to distribution systems, whether on a local or regional level. 


The basic unit of electric energy usage is kilowatt-hours. It is a measure of electricity defined as a unit of work or energy, measured as 1 kilowatt (1,000 watts) of power expended for 1 hour. For example, a 100-W lightbulb burning for 10 hours uses 1 kWh. The average residential energy usage for co-op members in Oklahoma is 1,171 kWhs per month (2016 data).  OKL Article End