special feature
Supplying electricity in the UK
Exploring electricity
So, just how does electricity get from huge power stations to our power points at home?
Here, electrical engineer John Biscoe explains
the electricity generation, transmission and distribution process.
But we wanted to know more. We wanted to know about carbon emissions and about what's needed to get electricity into our houses so we can make a little more sense of what we see in the media.
So, we asked him some questions.
You can read our interview with him.
See ....
an electrical conversion >
This feature is sponsored by
Higher Education Academy
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Supplying electricity
introduction |  the command of electricity |  Faraday's work ...  biography of Faraday >
switching on the kettle |  supplying electricity |  an electrical conversation
history of public supply |  electrical timeline  |  definitions
by John Biscoe, Director, GDM — building services and environmental engineers


Illustrations : Paul Weston
You can eavesdrop on the conversation between the electrical engineer John Biscoe and engineering timelines that we used to make this page. We aked him about the ins and outs of electricity supply and whether we have any choices .... an electrical conversion >
top of page

introduction |  the command of electricity |  Faraday's work ...  biography of Faraday >
switching on the kettle |  supplying electricity |  an electrical conversation
history of public supply |  electrical timeline  |  definitions

home  •  news  •  search  •  FAQs  •  references  •  about  •  sponsors + links
FUEL
• In the UK, six different energy sources are used as primary fuel for power generation.
• Each has pros and cons.
• Environmental impact is calculated by adding together DIRECT and EMBODIED energy costs — embodied energy is the energy it takes to extract and transport the fuel.
more on fuel >
GENERATION
• The fuel is used to heat water, which drives the motion of huge turbines. The ever-moving turbines produce the electricity.
• It is produced at a value of 25kV (25,000 volts).
• The newly-generated current is fed through a series of transformers that step the voltage up to 400kV — it's more efficient to distribute it at high rather than low voltage, since this minimizes energy losses.
• Electricity cannot be stored. It is transmitted as soon as it is produced. When consumer demand falls, power generation halts.
more on generation >
TRANSMISSION
• Electricity is transmitted across long distances via aluminium cables suspended on transmission towers (pylons).
• Overhead cables are more efficient than underground cables for transmitting at high voltages — underground cables must be insulated to prevent short circuiting.
• Transmission is at a higher voltage than generation or distribution, to maximize efficiency across the system.
more on transmission >
DISTRIBUTION
• The electricity is sent to bulk supply transformer stations, closer to end users.
• These transformers step the voltage down to 132kV or 110kV.
• At this voltage, it is distrubuted to individual or small groups of end users.
more on distribution >
CONSUMER
• In the UK, electricity is distributed to consumers at 230 volts (standard UK voltage).
• Transformers are used to step the voltage down from distrubution levels to consumer level.
• Energy losses increase with this drop in voltage, so larger cables used are used inside buildings to compensate.
more on consumer >