Electricity is a phenomenon that has captured the human imagination for millennia. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks recorded their observations of electric fish, describing the numbing force that was conducted into anyone who touched them. However, it wasn’t until 17th-century scientists began to study naturally occurring magnets and static electricity that it became more than an intellectual curiosity.
The pace of study quickened after Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with lightning in the later 1700s. The electric motor was invented in 1821 by Michael Faraday, and by the end of the 19th century, the names Hertz, Tesla, Westinghouse, Edison, and Bell would be world-famous for their work with electricity.
In our modern society, inventors continue to push the development of electrical concepts, bringing us wireless charging for our phones and semiconductor memory, used in flash and USB drives.
Here are 20 interesting statistics about electricity.
- China leads the world when it comes to electricity use. On an annual basis, China consumes the most electricity, using 6,880.1 terawatt-hours in 2019. The US is the world’s second-largest consumer of electricity, using 4,194.4 terawatt-hours, with India in third place, consuming 1,309.4 terawatt-hours.
- Even electricity is bigger in Texas. Texas is the top-ranking state in terms of total energy production. In 2018, Texas produced energy equivalent to more than 3,000 trillion BTUs. That’s more than the following two energy-producing states combined. Texas also produces more electricity than any other state.
- There are more than 642,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the United States. These conductors are considered the backbone of the electrical distribution grid, carrying electricity from generation plants to substations where high-voltage is stepped down to residential levels. Then, America’s 6.3 million miles of distribution lines deliver electricity to the end consumers.
- Most people know that copper is a great conductor of electricity. So you might be surprised to learn that aluminum is often used to wire the energy grid. Aluminum has just 60% of the conductivity of copper, but it’s also lighter and stronger. This combination of traits makes aluminum-based wiring a top choice in the electrical industry, particularly for high tension applications where its superior strength lowers the number of towers needed to support it.
- Americans spend $19 billion annually for powering the devices they’re not even using. We live a permanently connected lifestyle, and our seemingly insatiable demand for appliances that are ready for use in an instant has a significant impact on our electricity consumption. We draw a high idle electrical load for devices that are in standby or sleep mode but still drawing power. Many devices are also left on for convenience, even though they’re not actively being used.
- Refrigerators are one of the most common appliances in our homes. There are various models of different vintages, some with side-by-side configurations, others with freezers on the top or the bottom. Some new models are very efficient. However they are designed, they all draw power. But one thing that sets refrigerators and freezers apart from many other appliances is their cyclical operation. Your fridge surges its electrical demand to meet the temperature you’ve selected. But once it reaches that temperature, it idles down, and so does its power consumption. Older models can demand more than 2,000 watts of surge capacity.
- Natural gas is the largest energy source used to generate electricity in the US. 40% of the electricity generated in 2020 was sourced from natural gas. Natural gas also accounts for about one-third of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually.
- To bring electrical power to consumers, operators of America’s overhead transmission and distribution lines spent $7.3 billion to maintain them in 2019. The operation of these overhead lines requires the management of vegetation and tree trimming to avoid contact with the wires and repairs to the grid after storms or other events that cause faults. The wires must also be protected from animals, tested for strength, temperature, voltage, and frequency.
- As of 2019, there are 22,731 electricity generators online in the US. Together, they generate about 1.1 billion kilowatts of electricity. The power plant with the largest power-generating capability is the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station located near Tonopah, Arizona.
- Hydroelectric sources generate about 10% of the total electricity in the US. Conventional hydroelectric generation is much more common than facilities that utilize pumped storage hydroelectric. This is a type of plant that uses water that was previously pumped and then stored in an elevated storage reservoir. This is done during off-peak periods of power consumption, which provides excess generating capacity. Water can then be released from holding tanks in order to meet additional generating capacity during peak hours. It is released to the turbine generators at the ground level of the plant using gravity to save energy.
- More than half of the money spent on industrial electricity distribution in 2019 went toward capital investment. $31.4 billion was invested in upgrades to modernize, replace, and expand existing infrastructure. Another $14.6 billion was spent on general operations and maintenance, and another $11.5 billion was spent on advertising, billing, and customer service. That’s a total of 57.4 billion dollars.
- Wind electricity generation reached a record 1.76 million MWh on December 23, 2020. That meant approximately 17% of the total electricity that was generated on that day was from wind energy (Hawaii and Alaska excluded). The EIA estimates say that in 2020, wind electricity accounted for approximately 9% of all the electricity generation in the United States. Why the sudden surge in wind capacity? Not only are there more wind turbines than ever before, but the primary driver of the increase was prevalent strong winds in the central United States, leading to more output from wind turbines.
- The Indian Point Energy Center in New York State (located about 25 miles north of New York City) permanently stopped generating electricity on April 30, 2021. On that date, Indian Point’s Unit 3, its last operating nuclear reactor, was shut down. In the 59 years of its operation, the Indian Point nuclear power plant produced over 565 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity for consumers. Its absence removed just about 1,040 megawatts (MW) of nuclear-generating capacity from New York State.
- A single internet search can use equivalent energy to illuminating a 60 watt light bulb for about 15 seconds. That might not seem like a lot, but when you total up all the internet searches made around the world, the energy consumption becomes truly massive. Google’s worldwide operations require about 2.26 million megawatt-hours per year to sustain its data centers, an equivalent to powering more than 200,000 homes.
- The US electrical grid, at the highest level, is made up of only three main interconnections, designed to maintain stability and meet electrical demand across the smaller local grids of the lower 48 states. The Eastern Interconnection covers the territory east of the Rocky Mountains, as well as a portion of the Texas panhandle. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) covers the remaining areas of Texas. And, the Western Interconnection encompasses the area from the Rockies to the west coast.
- In 2020, the average retail price of electricity was 10.44 cents per kilowatt-hour. When broken down across sectors, residential consumers paid the highest price at 12.80 cents. Industrial applications paid the lowest rate at only 6.40 cents. Other sectors included commercial (10.48 cents) and transportation (9.81).
- Electricity can be a life-saver. When someone experiences an arrhythmia or fibrillation that affects the natural pace of their heart rate, it is often due to an abnormal electrical pattern in their body. Automated External Defibrillators are designed to deliver moderately high voltage between 200 and 1,000 volts via sticky pads affixed to the patient’s chest to shock the heart, hopefully resetting the electrical system of nodes that maintains normal electrical activity in the heart. This is roughly equivalent to the electricity it takes to power a 100-watt lamp for just a few seconds.
- Any voltage over 50 is considered dangerous for humans. But, typically, it’s not the voltage alone that is deadly, but the current and the amount of time you’re exposed to the voltage. People have died from exposure to voltages as low as 42 volts.
- You may have heard of cryptocurrency, but did you know how hungry those systems are for electricity? Right now, bitcoin mining and operations consume approximately 143 terawatt-hours on an annual basis, which is significantly more than some entire countries.
- During the COVID19 Pandemic, the wholesale price of electricity fell about 40% across the United States. It also changed the rhythm of the typical demand pattern. For instance, there was no early evening spike in demand when people arrived home from work and turned on televisions and air conditioners. With a great many people on lockdown, the demand was much more consistent. Total demand dropped significantly as well.