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Electric Transmission Grid

Lee Layton, P.E.

Course Outline

This course begins with a board overview of how the electric utility industry is structured including the role of generation, transmission, and distribution systems.  The history of the industry, market participants, and the various agencies that regulate the industry are covered.

The operational characteristics of the industry are reviewed including how the system is interconnected, how control areas function, the performance standards that must be met, and how ancillary services are handled in transactions are all reviewed.

Legislation that has affected the industry since its beginning is reviewed including PUHCA, PURPA, and the numerous energy policy acts of Congress.  Finally, the future of the industry is reviewed including RTO’s and locational marginal pricing structures.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

After taking this course you should,

Intended Audience

This course is intended for anyone who wants to understand how the electric transmission system in the United States is structured.

Benefit to Attendees

The transmission grid in the United States is talked about frequently as part the national energy policy.  This course will help you understand how the electric transmission grid is structured and what are the major issues facing utilities and others as they try to change the electric energy distribution model in the United States.

Course Introduction

In the past 30 years electricity use has doubled as a percentage of the total energy usage in the United States.  The electric power industry is vital to the efficient operation of the sophisticated information based economy.  It is one of the last major regulated industries and it is slowly moving toward becoming a competitive market. 

There are over 3,000 utilities in the U.S. from very small municipal systems to large systems with several million customers.  These utilities include investor owned companies, cooperatively owned companies, and publicly owned systems.  The electric power industry has traditionally been vertically integrated where, for the most part, the same company owned the generation, transmission, and distribution systems that served a given load center.  The traditional view is that the electric power industry is a natural monopoly where least costs are obtained by operating large centralized generating plants integrated with the transmission and distribution systems.  Since the early 1990’s the generation component of the industry has become more of a competitive market as independent power producers (IPP’s) enter the market. 

The purpose of the transmission system is to provide a path to transport power from the generating plants to the local distribution systems.  With the advent of IPP’s, who do not necessarily locate their plants near the intended load centers, the transmission system is facing new competitive pressures.  Even with competitive generation and transmission becoming more competitive, the local distribution systems will likely continue as natural monopolies into the foreseeable future.

This course is an overview of the electric power industry.  It includes a brief history of the industry, a description of the different participants in the market, a review of significant legislation affecting the industry, and a detailed description of how the electric transmission grid operates.  We will begin with a look at the overall structure of the industry.

Course Content

This course content is in the following PDF document:

Electric Transmission Grid

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Course Summary

The electric transmission grid is one of the most significant engineering accomplishments of the past 100 years.  Reliable electric energy is vital to a modern society and has become a key component of our national security.  Just about everything we do requires access to a reliable and economical supply of electricity.

The electric utility industry is an enormously complex machine that requires significant real-time production and monitoring as well as delivery over a transmission grid that is a complex network of interconnected systems.

Today we are pushing the grid to use it in ways it was never intended to be used.  If we are to continue to develop an open market for electrical generation and transmission, we must find new ways to operate the grid to maintain the level of reliability that we have come to expect.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.