Glossary

Click any of the letters below to see the definition of common terms in Energy Choice.

A B C D E F H I M N O P R S T U V W

A

Advanced Metering Device A device used to record or communicate actual gas use during minutes, hours, days or weeks.  This information is needed for time-of-day, on-peak/off-peak and other specialized billing rates.  May also be referred to as a ‘smart meter.’

Affiliate A company that is controlled by another or has the same owner as another company.

Aggregator An entity or an individual, licensed by the PSC, which acts on behalf of a customer (or group of customers) to buy energy in bulk to increase customers’ buying power.

Alternative Energy Energy generated using resources that are replaced naturally. Renewable energy may include fuels and technologies such as solar photovoltaic energy, solar thermal energy, wind power, low head hydropower, geothermal energy and biomass energy. Alternative energy sources include landfill- and mine-based methane gas, and energy from waste.

Arrearage An amount of money that is owed. Usually refers to overdue utility bills.

B

Balancing charge A fee charged by a utility to ensure an adequate supply of natural gas.

Base Load The amount of natural gas needed to meet minimum demand based on reasonable expectations of customer requirements at any point in time.

Broker An entity or individual licensed by the PSC that acts as an agent or go-between in the sale and purchase of natural gas but never owns the natural gas supply.

Budget Billing (Average Payment Plan) A billing option offered by utilities and many retail natural gas suppliers that allows a person to pay a fixed amount each month. Budget billing averages bills out over 12 months, so each monthly bill will be the same amount until the total bill is paid. The company may adjust the bill periodically each year, up or down, depending on the customer’s use. Residential customers may contact their gas utility and/or retail gas supplier and request budget billing at any time.

C

Commission The Public Service Commission (PSC) of Maryland. The state regulatory agency that provides oversight, policy guidance, and direction to natural gas companies and retail natural gas suppliers. The PSC licenses retail natural gas suppliers but does not regulate the products, services, or prices that retail gas suppliers offer. Find more information about the PSC at www.psc.state.md.us

Consent A customer’s approval of an agreement/contract with an action communicated by a written document, electronic document, or voice recording.

Consumer/Customer A retail natural gas customer.

Contract An agreement between parties with terms and conditions that serve as proof of the obligation.

Customer Choice The ability to choose to buy your natural gas supply from a retail natural gas supplier. Retail gas suppliers are licensed by the PSC, and will market natural gas to you through the mail, the phone, the internet, or in person. There are two key parts to your natural gas service: the gas supply (also referred to as the commodity), and the distribution or delivery of the gas to the customer. Transmission is the movement of that gas from where it is produced to a local distribution system. Distribution is the delivery of natural gas to your home or business. When you shop for a retail natural gas supplier, you are choosing the company that supplies your gas. For most gas customers who select a new retail gas supplier, transmission costs will also be included in the charges from your new retail gas supplier. The utility that distributes your natural gas supply will remain the same.

D

Daily Peak The greatest amount of natural gas used during a certain period in a day, such as an hour, a half-hour, or a quarter-hour, often used with time-of-use metering.

Default Service Natural gas service that a gas company must offer to its customers under law.

Default Service Provider The gas company that provides services to customers who do not choose a retail supplier, are unable to find a retail natural gas supplier willing to serve them, or no longer receive services from another retail gas supplier.

Demand The amount of gas customers use at any given moment or averaged over any certain period of time. It is a measure of the rate at which customers are using gas.

Deregulation The reorganization of regulated monopoly natural gas service to allow operations and charges to be separated or ‘unbundled’ into gas supply, transmission, distribution, and other services. Deregulation enables customers to buy natural gas supply services from retail gas suppliers. See also ‘Restructuring.’

Distribution The delivery of natural gas to your home or business.

Distribution Charge The rate charged for delivering natural gas from the gas company to your home or business. These charges are regulated by the PSC.

Distribution Territory The geographic area in which gas company provides gas distribution services to customers. Also referred to as a utility’s ‘service territory.’

Drop The removal of a customer from a retail natural gas supplier’s service.

E

Energy Conservation The reduction or management of energy consumption in a cost-effective and energy-efficient manner.

Enrollment The addition of a customer to a retail natural gas supplier’s service.

Evergreen Contract An existing contract that automatically renews at the end of the contract period unless the customer takes action to cancel the contract.

F

Fixed Price A price that remains the same for a set period of months or years.

Flat Rate A fixed charge for goods and services that does not vary as the amount used, volume consumed, or units purchased change.

Formal Complaint An appeal of an informal complaint. In the event an informal complaint is appealed with the Consumer Affairs Division (CAD), further review by the Assistant Manager of CAD may take place. The Assistant Manager’s decision may be appealed in writing to the Commission within 10 days of its receipt. The Commission will take final action on a formal complaint by issuing an order that dismisses the complaint, directs full or partial satisfaction of the complaint, or directs any other action that the Commission finds to be warranted.

H

Hourly Metering Tracking or recording a customer’s consumption during specific periods of time that can be tied to the price of energy. An Advanced Metering Device (known as a smart meter) must be used to record real-time usage. See also ‘Time of Use.’

I

Informal Complaint A dispute or disagreement about a utility or retail natural gas supplier problem filed by a customer with the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Division (CAD). A CAD investigator reviews the informal complaint and, based on information from the customer and the gas company or retail gas supplier, provides the customer with a response to his/her dispute. In some cases, an informal complaint is appealed within CAD and then to the Commission, where it becomes a formal complaint.

M

Marketer A company, licensed by the PSC that buys and resells natural gas to customers, but typically does not own production facilities.

Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) A state program providing financial assistance with home heating bills. Payments are made to the fuel supplier and utility company on the customer’s behalf. For information contact the Office of Home Energy Programs Office in your area, or call 1-800-352-1446.

Municipal Gas Utility A local corporation or a division of a local corporation, that is in the business of distributing natural gas for purposes other than end use by the local corporation. Gas choice is not available in the service territories of municipal gas utilities.

N

Natural Gas Supplier An entity that sells natural gas, gas supply services, competitive billing services, or that purchases, brokers, arranges, or markets natural gas or gas supply services for sale to a retail gas customer. Retail natural gas suppliers are licensed by the Maryland PSC and include gas suppliers, aggregators, brokers, and marketers of natural gas.

Non-Basic Services Services not required for the physical delivery of natural gas service. For example, energy efficiency or load management products/services.

O

Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) An independent state agency that represents the interests of Maryland’s residential utility customers before the PSC in rate and service cases and before other state and federal regulatory agencies and courts. OPC is not part of the Public Service Commission.

Off-Peak/On-Peak Blocks of time when energy demand and price is low (off-peak) or high (on-peak).

Office of Home Energy Programs A unit of the Maryland Department of Human Services. OHEP administers the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) which provides financial assistance with home heating bills. Payments are made to the fuel supplier and utility company on the customer’s behalf. The Utility Service Protection Program (USPP) is designed to protect low-income families from utility turn-offs during the heating season. All MEAP eligible customers may participate in USPP. Participation also requires a year-round even monthly budget billing. Failure to make consecutive payments may result in removal from USPP.

P

Public Service Commission (PSC) The state regulatory agency of Maryland that provides oversight, policy guidance and direction to natural gas companies and retail gas suppliers. The PSC licenses retail gas suppliers, but does not regulate the products, services, or prices retail gas suppliers offer.

Purchased gas charge A charge to customers that includes the cost to buy the natural gas supply.

R

Regulation A rule or law established by the federal or state government that sets procedures that a gas company and/or retail gas supplier must follow.

Reliability The provision of adequate and dependable natural gas service.

Restructuring The reorganization of traditional regulated natural gas service to allow operations and charges to be separated or ‘unbundled’ into gas supply, transmission, distribution, and other services. Restructuring allows customers to buy natural gas from retail gas suppliers.

Retail Natural Gas Customer A consumer of natural gas services.

Retail Natural Gas Supplier An entity that sells natural gas, gas supply services, competitive billing services, or that purchases, brokers, arranges, or markets natural gas or gas supply services for sale to a retail gas customer. Retail natural gas suppliers are licensed by the Maryland PSC and include gas suppliers, aggregators, brokers, and marketers of natural gas.

S

Service Line The local part of a gas system that delivers gas to most customers after it passes through higher pressure gas mains.

Slamming An illegal practice of switching a customer’s natural gas supply service without his/her permission.

Smart Meter A device used to record or communicate actual gas use during minutes, hours, days or weeks. This information is needed for time-of-day, on-peak/off-peak and other specialized billing rates. May also be referred to as an advanced metering device.

Spot Market A term used to describe the wholesale purchase of natural gas by retail gas suppliers within a regional transmission organization.

Sustainable Renewable energy systems that provide energy services to people without depleting resources, endangering the planet or compromising the ability of future generations to use the same energy services.

T

Terms of Service/Terms and Conditions Content of the agreement between a customer and a retail natural gas supplier.

Therms – A unit of heat equal to 100,000 British thermal units. Ten (10) Therms are equal to 1 Dekatherm.  It is approximately the energy equivalent of burning 100 cubic feet (often referred to as 1 Ccf) of natural gas.

Time of Use Tracking or recording a customer’s consumption during specific periods of time that can be tied to the price of energy. A smart meter must be used to record real-time usage.

Transmission The movement of natural gas from where it is produced to a local distribution system.

Transmission Charge The cost for transporting natural gas from the production source to your gas company. For most gas customers who choose a retail gas supplier, transmission costs will be included in the charges from the new retail gas supplier.

U

Universal Service Program A rate-payer funded energy assistance program administered by the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs of the Department of Human Services that helps low-income customers maintain energy service, and includes customer bill assistance, unpaid bill (arrearage) assistance, and weatherization.

Usage The amount of natural gas used during the billing period listed in therms. This will be listed on your gas bill as ‘therms used.’

Utility An entity that physically transmits or distributes natural gas in the state to a retail gas customer.

Utility Consolidated Billing A customer bill from a utility that contains both retail natural gas supplier and utility charges.

V

Variable Price A price that can change by the hour, day, month, etc.

W

Weatherization and Energy Efficiency Services Through OHEP, customer information is referred to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for programs that can provide improvements and repairs to homes at no cost. These improvements can help lower utility bills and make the home more comfortable. DHCD’s energy efficiency and weatherization programs support the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act. For more information, call 1-855-583-8976 or visit dhcd.maryland.gov/Pages/EnergyEfficiency