We work with a number of organizations to provide power to Albertans. We often use industry-specific terms to describe the services, roles and responsibilities. This glossary gives you everything you need to know.

Ampere - (Symbol I)

The common unit of measurement of an electrical current.

Alternating Current (AC)

A current that flows alternately in one direction and then in the reverse direction. In North America, the standard for alternating current is 60 complete cycles each second – a frequency of 60 hertz. Alternating current is used in our power systems because it’s more economical than direct current.

Breaker/main line switch

A protective device located on an electrical circuit to interrupt the flow of abnormally large current. The circuit breaker in your home is a common example.


In our industry, capacity has two meanings:

  1. System Capacity: The maximum power capability of a system. For example, a utility system might have a rated capacity of 5,000 megawatts.
  2. Equipment Capacity: The maximum power capability of a piece of equipment. For example, a generating unit might have a rated capacity of 50 megawatts.

Contract Minimum Demand

This is the minimum demand based on 2/3 of the Expected Peak Demand of the service. The contract minimum demand is generally found in the electric service agreement.

Current (electric)

The flow of electrons in an electrical conductor. It’s the rate of movement of the electricity, measured in amperes.


The flow rate at which electric energy is used over a designated period of time. It is measured by the meter in kilowatts (kW). The average demand recorded during a 15 minute period within the billing period will determine the metered demand.

Demand Ratchet

The highest demand recorded during the billing period is applied over a  month period in order to level out the recovery of the fixed costs necessary to serve the demand set. Costs are incurred to supply the higher demand and the demand ratchet allows these costs to be paid by the customers that caused them rather than distributing among customers with smaller demands.

Distribution System

The distribution system is the portion of an electric network that delivers electric energy to you. It “steps down” power from high-voltage transmission lines to a level that’s safe to use in your home or business.


A form of energy resulting from positive or negative charged particles (such as electrons or protons) at rest or in motion.

Electric Power

Measured in a unit called the watt, electric power is the rate at which electrical energy is transferred by an electric circuit.

Electric Service Agreement

This is a contract between the customer and FortisAlberta for those services that have an expected peak demand of 75kW or greater.

Expected Peak Demand

This is the expected electrical load that may be operating at the same time. It is also used when determining the investment level that FortisAlberta will contribute towards the new or upgraded service.


The process of producing electricity by transforming other forms of energy, such as steam or heat. Generation also refers to the amount of electricity produced, and is measured in watt-hours (Wh).


A wire or rope support for a power line pole or tower.

Hertz (Hz)

The unit of frequency for alternating current, formerly called cycles per second. The standard frequency for power supply in North America is 60 Hz.


A poor conductor of electricity that covers wires and other electrical components. Insulation helps prevent short circuits and accidental shocks.

Kilovolt Amperes (KVA)

A unit of power most commonly used in industrial transformers.

Kilowatt (kW)

The unit of electric power equal to 1,000 watts or about 1.34 horsepower. It’s the amount of electric energy you’d need to light ten 100-watt light bulbs.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh)

The commercial unit of electrical energy, representing the energy produced by one kilowatt acting for one hour. For example, ten 100-watt light bulbs burning for one hour would consume one kilowatt hour of electricity.

kW of Capacity

This determines the demand amount for billing purposes. Most of our rates are based on the kW of capacity. The kW of capacity varies among the rates, but is generally the highest demand based on:

  1. highest metered kW demand registered on the meter see (Metered Demand) or
  2. a percentage of the highest metered kW demand within the past 12 months (see Demand Ratchet) or
  3. a contract minimum demand as specified for those services that have an expected peak demand of 75kW or greater (see Electric Service Agreement) or
  4. a rate minimum specific to the rate (see individual rate schedule)


The total amount of electricity required to meet our customers’ demand at any moment, generally referred to as expected peak demand of the service. Our load fluctuates depending on electricity use on any given day.

Megawatt (MW)

A unit of power equal to one million watts. It’s the amount of electric energy needed to light 10,000 100-watt light bulbs.

Metered Demand 

The metered demand is the greater of the registered demand measured on your meter in kW or 90 per cent of the registered demand measured in kVA during a billing period. The registered metered demands in kW and kVA also determine the power factor of the service.

Power Factor

This is generally described by percentage using the equation kW/kVA*100. This percentage represents the ratio of usable power measured in kW to total power measured in kVA. Our rates are designed to a power factor of 90 per cent or greater.

Rate Minimum

This charge recovers the fixed costs associated with the operation and maintenance of those facilities provided regardless if electricity is used or not. Every rate has its own rate minimum,

Service Charge

The fixed amount that we bill for the service. This recovers the fixed distribution costs such as conductor, transformer and poles. The service charge is applicable regardless if the service is using energy or not because we've installed the facilities or the facilities are available to the customer at any time.

Service Drop

A device used to connect wires from the power lines to the point where they enter a building.


A station in a power transmission system where electric power is transformed to a form we can use it more easily. The station consists of transformers, switches, circuit breakers and other equipment. Substations route and control electrical power flow, transform voltage levels, and serve as delivery points to business and industry.


A sudden increase in voltage or electrical current.

Step Down

A process used to reduce electrical energy from a higher voltage to a lower voltage, as in a “step down transformer.”

Step Up

A process used to increase electrical energy from a lower voltage to a higher voltage, as in a “step up transformer.”

Volt (V)

The unit of measurement of electromotive force. It’s equal to the force needed to produce a current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm.


The force that causes free electrons to move in a conductor is measured in volts (V).

Watt (W)

A watt is an electric unit of power.

Roles in the Alberta Electrical Industry

A variety of groups work together to bring you your electricity. Below is a step-by-step look at how power in Alberta makes its way to you.


Before electricity can make its way to you, first it must be generated. This is the process of producing electricity by transforming other forms of energy, such as steam, heat or falling water. In Alberta, the market is open to any generation company.


After it’s generated, electrical power is transmitted to the distribution system along a network of high voltage lines, transformers and switches. The transmission network is also used to interconnect different utility systems and independent power producers. In Alberta, this system is administered by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).


Distribution companies run systems of lines, transformers and switches that connect our transmission network to you. In Alberta, distribution companies like us perform the following jobs:

  • Build, operate and maintain the distribution wires in our service area.
  • Respond to power outages and downed wires.
  • Buy, install, read, and verify the meters in our service areas.
  • Work with retailers to calculate and bill for the cost of electricity distribution. Companies like ours bill the retailers directly — not you, the customer.
  • Provide information to the power pool and retailers about power consumption throughout our system. This is called Load Settlement.
  • Connect, disconnect, and ensure that you’ll have a default power supply if you are no longer our customer.


Many of your day-to-day dealings with Alberta’s electrical industry are probably with your billing company. Billing companies are also known as retailers, and they’re the people or companies that sell you your electrical energy. In Alberta, retailers also do the following jobs:

  • Buy power on behalf of customers like you, and negotiate a price. This is called energy procurement.
  • Make arrangements with the distribution company to read your meter.
  • Maintain records and accounts, and produce and deliver your bill.
  • Make sure you’re connected to the distribution and transmission system for reliable power.
  • Respond to your questions, concerns and complaints.


All of the above players in the industry are regulated by The Alberta Utilities Commission, or AUC. They make sure that decisions are made in your best interest.

Power Line Clearances

Power Line Clearances

Make sure you know how tall your equipment is before you pass under or work closely to power lines.

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