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Energy Basics

​Supplying and Distributing Electricity​

Supply: How it's Produced

More than two and a half centuries have passed since Benjamin Franklin and others proved lightning was a form of electricity. Electricity is a form of energy that starts with atoms. An atom has three parts: protons, neutrons, and electrons. At least one electron travels around the center of the atom at great speed. Forcing electrons to flow from atom to atom creates electricity. In the United States, this process is typically performed at power plants. There are many ways to generate electricity such as burning coal, nuclear reaction, or through renewable methods such as solar, wind and more.

Distribution: How it's Delivered

Electricity from the power plant is brought to you along a network of power equipment and lines. Electricity leaves the power plant on high power transmission lines on tall towers to substations and is brought to homes and businesses by transformers that manage the voltage and service lines that carry the current.

Supplying and Distributing Natural Gas

Supply: How it's Produced

Natural gas is a combustible mixture of hydrocarbon gases. When it's burned, it produces a powerful burst of energy and few emissions. The natural gas that is delivered to your home is almost all methane. Methane is a molecule known as CH4 that is made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. The distinctive smell associated with natural gas is actually an odor added to the gas to help end-users detect leaks. Natural gas is found in reservoirs underneath the earth. Using sophisticated technology, production companies search for these reservoirs and drill wells where they are found. After it is extracted from the earth, natural gas is refined to remove impurities such as water and other gases and compounds. Some hydrocarbons that are removed from natural gas, such as propane and butane, are sold as separate products.

Distribution: How it's Delivered

After refining, the clean natural gas is transmitted through a network of pipelines that deliver it to a variety of users. It's a complicated process but, at your home or business, turning on the gas is as simple as the flick of a switch.

Enlightening Energy Terms

Producing and delivering the energy that powers our homes and businesses often involves introducing new terms. We've listed and defined many of those to help you navigate the energy process along with us.

CogenerationProduction of heat energy and electrical or mechanical power from the same fuel in the same facility.
DemandThe level at which electricity is delivered to users at a given point in time. Electric demand is measured in kilowatts.
Department of Energy (DOE)A federal agency that manages the programs of research, development, and commercialization of various energy technologies and associated environmental, regulatory, and defense programs. The DOE promulgates energy policies and acts as a principal advisor to the President of the United States on energy matters.
DistributionThe process of transforming high-voltage electricity to lower voltages and then physically delivering it to the electricity users.
Distribution SystemThe substations, wires, and lines that convey electricity from high-powered transmission lines to ultimate consumers.
ElectricityA property of the basic parts of matter. A form of energy having magnetic, radiant, and chemical effects. A current of electricity is increased by an increase in the charged particles.
EnergyThe capability of doing work. The resources that make a technology operational. The term "energy" is also used to mean electricity supplied over time. It is expressed in kilowatt-hours.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)A federal agency established under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 to undertake all administrative and regulatory functions related to the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution.
Fossil FuelOil, coal, or natural gas. Fuel that was formed in the earth in prehistoric times from remains of living organisms.
GridThe electric transmission and distribution system that links power plants to customers.
InterchangeThe agreement among interconnected utilities under which they buy, sell, and exchange power among themselves. This can provide for economy and emergency power supplies.
Kilowatt HourA kilowatt hour measures the quantity of electricity generated or consumed in one hour.
Load ManagementSteps taken to reduce power demand at peak load times or to shift some of the load to off-peak times.
Lumens/WattsA measure of the efficiency of a light bulb. The number of lumens output per watt of power input.
MegawattA unit of electric power equal to one million watts or 1,000 kilowatts.
Nuclear EnergyPower obtained by splitting heavy atoms (fission) or joining light atoms (fusion). A nuclear power plant uses a controlled atomic chain reaction to produce heat. The heat is used to make steam to run conventional turbine generators.
Peak LoadThe highest electrical demand within a particular period of time.
TransmissionThe process of conducting the flow of electricity at high voltages from the points of generation to the locations of groups of electricity users.
Turbine GeneratorA device that uses steam, heated gases, water flow, or wind to cause a spinning motion that activates electromagnetic forces and generates electricity.
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