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Table of Contents

The Planet

The Planet
October 1998 Volume 5, Number 8



Green-e certification

An independent process certifying that providers meet strict standards and actually purchase the amount of renewable energy they promise to sell.

Green/clean energy

The perfect green energy is conservation but beyond that the jury is still out on exactly what constitutes "green energy." Sierra Club Global Warming and Energy Program director Dan Becker has one opinion - his "sliding scale of green energy" starts with landfill methane, which is the greenest because it reduces pollution by turning it into power. (Methane gas is a by-product of decomposition in landfills.) Solar, wind and and other renewable energies are next highest on the green scale since they do not cause pollution. However, wind turbines can kill migrating birds. Natural gas is next. Hydroelectric power is next; even though it doesn't create pollution, damming rivers can obstruct salmon migration patterns and alter other aspects of the ecosystem. Coal and nuclear power are lowest on Becker's green scale - coal because of the greenhouse gases and air pollution, nuclear because of waste disposal, accidents and the danger of misuse.


A company or organization that runs the plant that creates electricity. Public utilities distribute electricity and also generate power. Restructuring allows non-utility generators access to new power markets in some states.

Kilowatt-hour rate

Kilowatt-hours are the unit of measurement for electrical energy. One kilowatt hour is equal to a 100-watt bulb burning for ten hours.


A company that markets energy to consumers. In the past, public-utility companies were the only providers; now non-utility providers can market and sell power to consumers in states where the industry has been restructured.

Public utility companies

The companies granted monopoly franchises by states years ago to generate, transmit and distribute energy to the public. Public utilities still transmit and distribute electricity to consumers, but in states where restructuring allows competition, other companies may generate or market the power.

Stranded costs (competition transition cost)

When a utility spends billions of dollars to build a nuclear power plant that never opens, those billions are termed "stranded costs." Before restructuring, the utilities could not bill the consumer for these costs. Now, in most restructuring bills, they can. This fall, Californians will vote on Proposition 9, which would repeal the current law charging consumers for these stranded costs.


Separating out costs for energy generation, transmission and distribution.

Utility restructuring

Restructuring the regulations and policies governing electric utilities, sometimes referred to as utility deregulation. Depending on the details adopted by each state, restructuring would allow competition at the generation and/or marketing level.

The other three sections of this feature:

The main article: Green Power or Greenwashing?

Swimming in the power pool.

Guide to getting green.
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