Electric Power Transmission and Distribution in the USA

published August 23, 2021
Image of high-voltage power lines at sunset,high voltage electric transmission tower

Electric Power in the US

Electricity supply in the US is a fascinating industry. The US Power Grid delivers over $400 billion worth of electricity every year, transported via 7 million miles of transmission and distribution lines.

The US National Transmission and Distribution System has often been tagged as the world’s most gigantic machine and part of the most outstanding engineering achievement of the 20th century. This title comes with good reason because this vast system can deliver power from over 30,000 energy plants into homes, offices, and other spaces.

The Power Grid of North America

What many consumers do not realize is that the national distribution system is not one single unit. Instead, it is a collection of interconnection grids that handle all transmission and distribution needs in specific jurisdictions.

The central North American system is divided into five wide area synchronous grids: the Eastern Interconnection, The Western Interconnection, the Texas Interconnection, The Alaska Interconnection, and the Quebec Interconnection.

The US is serviced mainly by the first three, while the latter function individually in Canada and Alaska. Due to the enormous scale of these grids, it is necessary to have an independent regional transmission organization. These RTOs manage the direct supply and distribution of electricity within their given regions.

Where does the Mid-Atlantic Source its Electric Power

PJM Interconnection is the Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) primarily responsible for distributing electricity in many parts of the Mid-Atlantic. They cover Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. PJM’s leading role in the Mid Atlantic distribution system is to act as a balancing authority.

A balancing authority ensures that demand and supply are carefully matched to keep the electrical system safe and reliable. The consequences of evading this responsibility could be drastic, and many past scenarios have resulted in local or even widespread blackouts due to grid failure.

Primary users in the Mid-Atlantic Region

The US Mid-Atlantic is home to some of the more prominent states in the nation, from the commercial hub of New York to the capital seat in Washington, DC. Many Mid-Atlantic states have record-high consumption figures, with the possible exception of Maryland, which consumes less electricity per person than around three-quarters of the states.

In 2018, the business sector consumed around 48 percent of Maryland's electricity, while the residential sector accounted for an additional 45 percent.

The Future of Power Generation

The majority of the existing grid infrastructure was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s and was designed to last 50 years. Almost everything is different now. The demands placed on the electric power system have risen dramatically, increasing from over 3 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 1990 to around 4 trillion in 2007.

The landscape is shifting from a power-centric model to a decentralized energy network, with large and smaller producers competing for market share. Microgrids, which are small systems that can generate energy without relying on the primary grid, are becoming more popular.

This market presents a prime opportunity for both private and public actors that can unify the efforts of the independent energy industry and the traditional non-renewable grid system.

Contact Davis Infrastructure

Davis Infrastructure is a traditional manufacturer’s representative firm focusing on mission-critical needs of engineers, contractors, and end-users in Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Contact us to learn more about our product and service offerings.


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