The transmission grid comes to an end when electricity finally gets to the consumer, allowing you to turn on the lights, watch television, or run your dishwasher.
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The patterns of our lives add up to a varying demand for electricity by hour, day, and season, which is why the management of the grid is both complicated and vital for our everyday lives. The electricity grid has grown and changed immensely since its origins in the early s, when energy systems were small and localized. During this time, two different types of electricity systems were being developed: the DC, or direct current , system, and the AC, or alternating current , system [ 7, 8 ].
Transport Pricing of Electricity Networks
Competition between these two systems was fierce. Competing electric companies strung wires on the same streets in cities, while electric service for rural areas was ignored. Despite a campaign by Thomas Edison to promote the direct current system, businessman George Westinghouse and inventor Nikola Tesla won the support of electric companies for the alternating current system, which had the distinct advantage of allowing high voltages to be carried long distances and then transformed into lower voltages for customer use [ 9 ].
As the electricity system grew, the advantages of AC allowed utility companies to build grids over larger areas, creating economies of scale. From roughly to , that approach was locked in place. Under this structure, utilities controlled every aspect of the electricity grid, from generation to distribution to the customer. This led 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, to restructure the management of the electricity grid, allowing customers to buy electricity from competitive retail suppliers [ 11 ].
The interconnected and complex nature of the electricity grid delivers several benefits [ 12 ], including:. A historic blackout in showcased why effective grid transmission is so important. On August 14, , an Ohio power company set off the largest blackout in human history simply due to human error . Offices had to be evacuated, and thousands of people flooded hospitals suffering from the heat . Our electricity grid has come a long way since , but many more opportunities exist for improvement.
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The electricity grid is a dynamic system. It has changed and evolved rapidly over the last century to accommodate new technologies, increases in electricity demand, and a growing need for reliable, diverse sources of electricity. Even on an hourly basis, the grid is changing, with different sources of electricity being manipulated to satisfy demand at the least cost.
As technology changes and better options become available, significant improvements could be made to the electricity grid. For example, energy storage technologies could allow electricity to be stored for use when demand for electricity peaks or increases rapidly, increasing efficiency and reliability.
Newer, more advanced meters such as self-programming thermostats will allow better data collection for more effective management and faster response times. Even vehicles could play a role, as smart charging can allow electric cars to interface with the electric grid. Distributed generation systems, such as solar panels on individual homes, reduce the distance that electricity has to travel, thereby increasing efficiency and saving money. Investments made by consumers — such as purchasing energy-efficient appliances, constructing more energy-efficient buildings, or installing solar panels — save customers money and utilize energy more efficiently at the same time.
Ramping Up Renewables. Cambridge, MA. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Accessed August 2, How much electricity is lost in transmission and distribution in the United States?
Frequently Asked Questions. Washington, DC. Accessed February 18, Electric Transmission Regulation. The Electric Grid: A History.
Maintenance and recovery of high voltage electricity transport systems | ESA Business Applications
How Electricity Works. How Stuff Works, Inc. Electric Transmission Operational Characteristics. Accessed August 1, State and electric retail choice programs are popular with commercial and industrial customers. Electricity Transmission: A Primer. Denver, CO. July 31, New Tools for Keeping the Lights On. We can shift our nation away from dirty fossil fuels and toward cleaner, renewable sources of power—but not without you.
Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future. See how the United States can dramatically expand renewable energy. Such questions are novel and crucial for American and European liberalised electricity markets. Transport Pricing of Electricity Networks shows how the economics toolbox can be used to answer them.
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