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General Glossary of Terms

Term Definition

Fuel derived from plant and organic matter that is used to generate electricity. Landfill gas is one of the most widely used forms of biomass generation. At those facilities, gases from decomposing organic matter are collected and burned to generate electricity. While biomass-based generation is not entirely pollution free, it does not contribute to global warming and produces much less pollution than more traditional sources of electricity such as coal.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

CO2 is naturally present in the Earth's atmosphere and is a greenhouse gas considered to be the main anthropogenic contributor to global warming and climate change. Burning fossil fuels to produce electricity and drive our cars releases significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Carbon Footprint

Your carbon footprint is a representation of the effect you, or your business, have on the climate in terms of the total amount of CO2 emissions you produce. Activities that constitute a household's carbon footprint include, but are not limited to, electricity usage, vehicle travel, airline travel and natural gas usage.

Carbon Offsets

Greenhouse gas emissions reductions from projects such as methane capture at landfills, reforestation, and energy efficiency. Carbon offsets can help balance out the carbon footprint of an individual or business, allowing them to have a smaller net impact on climate change. High quality carbon offsets should be real, permanent, verifiable, and beyond "business as usual".


Ceres (pronounced "series") is a national network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies and investors to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Through our long time membership in the Ceres coalition, we publicly issue an annual sustainability report that discloses our corporate environmental policies and performance. View our sustainability reports

Climate Change

Climate change describes the ongoing transformation of the Earth's average climate over time (from decades to millions of years). The majority of the world's climate scientists have concluded that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from human activities, such as transportation and electricity production, have a significant impact on the atmosphere and are having a discernible influence on global climate.


The relaxation of government controls over business operation. In the retail electricity market, deregulation refers to ending the monopoly status of local utilities and allowing competitive power marketers to offer service to customers. In the markets that have deregulated to date, this has meant the incumbent utility retains control of transmitting and distributing power while power generation and retail service become open to competition.

Distribution System

The local poles, wires, transformers, substations and other equipment used to deliver electricity to end-use consumers from high-voltage transmission lines. See "Grid".

Energy Efficiency

Refers to programs that are aimed at reducing the energy used by specific end-use devices and systems, typically without affecting the services provided. These programs reduce overall electricity consumption (reported in megawatt hours), often without explicit consideration for the timing of program-induced savings. Such savings are generally achieved by substituting technically more advanced equipment to produce the same level of end-use services (e.g. lighting, heating, motor drive) with less electricity. Examples include high-efficiency appliances, efficient lighting programs, high-efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or control modifications, efficient building design, advanced electric motor drives, and heat recovery systems.

Energy Source

The primary source that provides the power that is converted to electricity through chemical, mechanical, or other means. Energy sources include fossil fuels, like coal, natural gas, petroleum and petroleum products, and renewable sources like water, wind, sunlight, geothermal, and biomass.


An existing or planned location or site at which prime movers, electric generators, and/or equipment for converting mechanical, chemical, and/or nuclear energy into electric energy are situated, or will be situated. A facility may contain more than one generator of either the same or different prime mover type. For a cogenerator, the facility includes the industrial or commercial process.

Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels include coal, oil, natural gas, petroleum, coke or other petroleum-based fuels. They're called fossil fuels because they are formed from the decayed remains of prehistoric plants and animals. Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources which have a finite supply. All fossil fuels contain carbon, and when they are combusted to make electricity or power an airplane or automobile engine, they create carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas.

Generation Charges

The part of every customer's electricity bill that goes toward producing electricity. In deregulated electric markets, generation is competitively priced and is not regulated by the state. Generation charges are determined by suppliers, like Green Mountain Energy Company, or may be negotiated by entities such as aggregators and utility partners.


Energy generated by heat stored beneath the Earth's surface.

Green Electricity

Electricity that is made from renewable resources like wind, water, geothermal, solar and biomass.

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