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This paper presents a biogeography-based optimization (BBO) algorithm to solve both convex and non-convex economic load dispatch (ELD) problems of thermal plants. The proposed methodology can take care of economic dispatch problems involving constraints such as transmission losses, ramp rate limits, valve point loading, multi-fuel options and prohibited operating zones. Biogeography deals with the geographical distribution of biological species. Mathematical models of biogeography describe how a species arises, migrates from one habitat to another and gets wiped out. BBO has some features that are in common with other biology-based optimization methods, like genetic algorithms (GAs) and particle swarm optimization (PSO). This algorithm searches for the global optimum mainly through two steps: migration and mutation. The effectiveness of the proposed algorithm has been verified on four different test systems, both small and large, involving varying degree of complexity. Compared with the other existing techniques, the proposed algorithm has been found to perform better in a number of cases. Considering the quality of the solution obtained, this method seems to be a promising alternative approach for solving the ELD problems in practical power system.