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This paper presents a new genetic approach for solving the economic dispatch problem in large-scale power systems. A new encoding technique is developed. The chromosome contains only an encoding of the normalized system incremental cost in this encoding technique. Therefore, the total number of bits of chromosome is entirely independent of the number of units. The salient feature makes the proposed genetic approach attractive in large and complex systems which other methodologies may fail to achieve. Moreover, the approach can take network losses, ramp rate limits, and prohibited zone avoidance into account because of genetic algorithm's flexibility. Numerical results on an actual utility system of up to 40 units show that the proposed approach is faster and more robust than the well-known lambda-iteration method in large-scale systems.