For most of my life, electricity was a wonderful thing that I didn’t think about too much. For all I knew it appeared magically from wall sockets; I really didn’t think much about where it was coming from or how it got to me, my TV, my refrigerator or my light bulbs. It just did and that was good enough for me.
But it’s not. It’s a little dopey to take that attitude when just a little knowledge helps us to make better decisions about energy conservation and green living. Don’t worry, there’s only a little we need to know and I actually have a very good picture, courtesy of the fine folks over at the Energy Information Administration (They really are fine folks and they do sensational work.).
With the help of the picture, the other terms on my bill become a little clearer.
Generation ($50.83): The power plant that generates the power. Power plants cost billions to make and maintain. It’s no surprise this is the highest cost on the bill.
Fuel ($43.39): What is used to power the power plant. This can be a mix of various fuels, depending on your electricity provider. Fuels used for the generation of electricity include coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, and various renewables such as wind and solar. Almost half the electricity in the US is generated by coal power plants.
Transmission ($5.10): Those big, steel towers you see are transmitting the power generated by the power plant to your county, town or city. The higher the voltage the transmission line can handle, the farther the power plant can transmit its electricity. It’s not a surprise this is the least expensive part of the bill, because utility companies often share transmission lines.
Distribution ($33.88): Once the power gets close to you, it is stepped down to a lower voltage and distributed across smaller power lines in the ground or running atop telephone poles until it reaches your home.
And that’s everything you need to know to understand your electric bill. Not so bad, huh?