Electricity is delivered to consumers through a complex network. In fact, delivery is the final leg of electricity’s long journey, which begins with the generating plant and ends with the customer.
Where did the electricity come from?
As covered in earlier posts, electricity starts with generation, usually at a natural gas–fired electric plant or a coal-fired plant. Once it’s generated, the electricity travels over high-voltage transmission lines that are strung along tall metal lattice towers – and in some cases over great distances.
Preparing electricity for delivery
Much like semi-trucks on the interstate, the Megavolts (MV) on the transmission lines are heading for regional distribution centers. From there, they can be sent on their final delivery route by overhead power lines. But first, the current must be sent through a transformer to lower the voltage.
Why a transformer? It’s important to remember that prior to transmission, the electricity was elevated to 69,000 to 765,000 volts. That’s because higher voltages need less energy for transmission, so it’s more efficient that way.
But most home appliances, from toasters to central air conditioner units, only use 120 volts to 240 volts. Delivering full-strength electricity would certainly fry your toaster — and everything else in your home!
So before it’s sent out on city power lines, the current is lowered to a range of 13,000-25,000 volts. Then, when it gets to your neighborhood, it passes through a smaller transformer unit, a box you can see on top of the utility poles, and lowered again to 240 volts. From there, the electricity arrives to your house, entering through the meter on the side of your home.
Power lines and outages
Don’t be mistaken: Even with the lowered voltage for delivery, any downed line could be “live” and cause electric shock to anyone who touches it. If you should see one, stay away and call your local utility company immediately.
That’s right – even if you choose Direct Energy or one of our competitors as your energy company, the power lines in your city or town are owned and maintained by your local utility company. The same goes for a power outage in your area: call your local utility first.