The Electricity System In The United States

The modern electrical system in the United States is made up of power plants, transmission and distribution lines, and people who use electricity. Most Americans get their electricity from central power plants that use coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, and renewable energy sources like water, wind, and sun. The “electric power grid” is the complex system of generating, distributing, and using electricity.

How And Where Does Electricity Come From?

Electricity in the United States comes from many different places. Natural gas, coal, and nuclear power are the ones that are used the most. Wind and solar energy are two of the clean energy sources that are growing the fastest. Most of the electricity made in the U.S. is made in large, centrally located power plants. Distributed generation, which includes solar panels and heat pumps, makes a much smaller amount of electricity, but that amount is growing. 

How Electricity Is Distributed And Used?

After it is made at a central power station, electricity is sent through a network of high-voltage transmission lines that are all connected to each other. Substations lower the voltage of high-voltage power, which is then sent to customers through a network of distribution lines. Find out more about how electricity is sent to different places.

About one-third of all the energy used in the United States is used by homes, businesses, and factories. The transportation sector only uses a small amount of the total amount of electricity. Find out more about the people in charge.

How Does The Grid Make Sure That Supply And Demand Are In Balance?

Most of the time, electricity must be made where it is used. Electric utility companies and people who run the grid must work together to make enough electricity to meet demand. In response to higher demand, operators can increase the output of existing power plants, generate electricity from power plants that are already running at a low level or on standby, import electricity from far away sources, or ask end users who have agreed to use less electricity from the grid.

What The Electricity System Does To The Environment

How and where electricity is made and given out determines how almost every part of the energy system affects the environment. Here are some examples of effects on the environment:

  • When fossil fuels are burned, they release greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the air.
  • Water is used to make steam, cool things down, and do many other things.
  • Especially thermal pollution makes bodies of water dirty (water that is hotter than the original temperature of the water body).
  • Making solid trash, some of which may be dangerous waste.
  • Land is needed for making fuel, making electricity, and building transmission and distribution lines.
  • Because of the effects on air, water, waste, and land, there are also effects on plants, animals, and ecosystems.
  • Some of these effects on the environment could hurt people’s health, especially if they cause people to be exposed to pollutants in the air, water, or soil.
  • Visit the pages about centralized generation, distributed generation, and electricity distribution to find out more about how each part of the power system affects the environment.
  • The way the electricity you use affects the environment depends on the sources of power that are available in your area. This is called the “electricity mix.” Go to the EPA’s Power Profiler to find out more about the pollution caused by the electricity you use.

You can lessen the damage your electricity use does to the environment by buying green energy and using it more efficiently. Find out more about how you can help the environment.

In General, There Are A Number Of Things That Can Be Done To Reduce The Bad Effects Of Energy Production On The Environment, Such As:

  • Efficiency in terms of how much energy is used. End users can meet some of their needs with devices and methods that use less energy. From this point of view, saving energy is a resource that makes it less important to make electricity. Find out more about how to save energy.
  • Power that is clean and centralized. Power plants, both new and old, can reduce their effects on the environment by making generation more efficient, installing pollution controls, and using cleaner energy supply options. Here, you can find out more about centralized generating.
  • Generation that is clean and spread out. Distributed generation, like distributed renewable energy, can help customers get clean, reliable power while reducing the amount of power that is lost along transmission and distribution lines. Here, you can find more information about distributed generation.
  • One source of heat and electricity (CHP). Cogeneration, which is another name for CHP, is when the same fuel source is used to make both electricity and heat. CHP is a type of distributed generation and a way to save energy because it uses heat that would have been lost otherwise. Find out more about the CHP.