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The authors present a new formulation of the economic dispatch (ED) problem considering more practical constraints and nonlinear characteristics than previous works in the area. The proposed formulation includes ramp rate limits, prohibited operating zones, system spinning reserve, valve loading effects, multiple fuel options, which usually be found simultaneously in realistic power systems. To solve the ED formulation, an efficient real-coded genetic algorithm (RCGA) with arithmetic-average-bound crossover and wavelet mutation is presented. To show the effectiveness of the solution method, it is applied to five test systems having non-convex solution spaces and compared with some of the most recently published approaches. The obtained results reveal the performance of the proposed RCGA.