Basic Electricity Terms


Specific to the electric industry:

Alternating current (AC)Electric current that reverses directions at regular intervals.
AmpsMeasurement of current flow through a conductor.
AtomThe smallest unit of matter.  Everything in the world is made of different combinations of atoms.
BatteryA single or group of connected electric cells that produces a direct electric current (DC).
BlackoutTotal loss of electric power from the power distributor.
BrownoutA temporary reduction of voltage supplied by the electric power distributor.
CapacitanceThe ability of a component to store an electrical charge.
ChargeElectricity produced by a surplus or a shortage of electrons in an object.
CircuitThe path followed by a flow of electric current.
ConductorA substance or material that allows electrons, or electrical current, to flow through it.
CurrentThe movement or flow of electricity through a conductor.
Direct Current (DC)Electric current flowing in only one direction
Distribution LinesOverhead or underground power lines that carry electricity through cities and neighborhoods to your home or business.
ElectricityThe flow of electrons.
ElectronA negatively charged particle that orbits the nucleus of an atom. The flow of electrons produces electricity.
EnergyThe ability to do work. Energy = Power x Time
Energy Management SystemA system designed to ensure safety, security, and reliability to an electrical network.
FissionThe splitting apart of an atom’s nucleus, releasing heat energy.
FuseAn electrical safety device consisting of a wire or strip of fusible metal that melts and interrupts the circuit when the current exceeds a preset amperage.
Generator A machine which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. 
Geothermal EnergyHeat energy that is stored below the earth’s surface.
GroundAn electrical connection to the earth.
GridA power system’s layout of its substations and power lines.
HydroelectricityElectricity generated by flowing water making a turbine spin.
InsulatorAny material that will not allow electricity to easily flow through.
Kilowatt (kW)A unit for measuring electrical energy. (demand)
Kilowatt Hour (kWh)One kilowatt of electrical energy produced or used in one hour. (energy)
LightningA flash of light caused by an atmospheric electrical discharge between two clouds, or between a cloud and the earth.
Lightning ArrestorA device used to protect an electrical component from over-voltage.
LoadAn electrical device or devices that use(s) electric power.
MagnetAn object surrounded by a magnetic field that has the ability to attract iron or steel.
Magnetic FieldAn identified force that exists around a magnet or electrical field.
MegawattOne million watts.
MeterAn instrument that records the amount of something passing through it, such as electricity.
MotorA device that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.
NeutronA basic particle in an atom’s nucleus that has a neutral electrical charge.
Nuclear PowerEnergy produced by splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor.
NucleusThe center of an atom that contains both protons and neutrons.
OhmsThe unit of measurement of the electrical resistance of a material.
Power Energy used to do work measured in watts.
Power FactorThe inefficient use of electrical power; the ratio of watts to volt-amperes.
ProtonA basic particle in an atom’s nucleus that has a positive charge.
RadioAn electrical device that is capable of sending or receiving messages by means of electromagnetic waves through the air.
ResistanceThe resistance to flow of electricity through a material.
SCADA SystemsSupervisory Control And Data Acquisition.  A Computer system used to remotely monitor and control substation equipment.
SocketAn opening into which something fits, such as a light socket.
Solar EnergyEnergy produced by the sun’s light or heat.
SpikeA short duration of increased voltage lasting only one-half of a cycle.
Static ElectricityAn electrical charge built up due to friction between two dissimilar materials.
SubstationAn electrical facility where transformers lower high transmission voltages to be distributed to customers.
SurgeA short duration of increased voltage.
SwitchAn electrical component used for connecting, breaking, or changing the connections in an electrical circuit.
ThermalOf, using, producing, or caused by heat.
ThermographyA technique used for detecting and measuring the heat emitted by various objects, such as an electrical distribution panel. This technique can be recorded photographically.
Transformer An electrical device that will raise or lower electricity’s voltage and current.
Turbine-generatorA large fan(s) that is coupled to a generator field. This turbine (fan) is put into motion by the force of water, steam, or hot exhaust gases that rotate the turbine.
VoltThe unit of measurement of force used to produce an electric current.
WattA unit for measuring electric power.
Wind turbineA machine that uses energy from the wind and transfers the motion to an electric generator.