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Like water, food, and air, electrical energy has become an integral part of daily personal and business lives. People have become so accustomed to flicking a switch and having instant light, action, or communication that little thought is given to the process that produces this electrical energy or how it gets to where it is used. It is unique in that practically all that is produced is not stored but used instantly in the quantities that are needed.
For alternatives to electrical energy, one must go back to the days of gas lamps, oil lamps, candles, and steam- or water-powered mechanical devices and work days or leisure time that was limited to daylight hours for the most part. Where does this vital electrical energy come from and how does it get to its users? This book covers only the how, when and where electrical energy is produced. Other texts cover how it is delivered to the consumer. The electric utility is the basic supplier of electrical energy and is perhaps unique in that almost everyone does business with it and is universally dependent on its product.
Many people are unaware that a utility is a business enterprise and must meet costs or exceed them to survive. Unlike other enterprises producing commodities or services, it is obligated to have electrical energy available to meet all the customer demands when they are needed, and its prices are not entirely under its control. The regulation of utilities by government agencies leads to the perception that utilities are in fact monopolies. People have alternatives in almost every other product they use such as choosing various modes of travel auto, train or plane.
People can use gas, oil or coal directly for their own energy needs or use them to generate their own electrical energy. Indeed some people today use sunlight or windpower to supplement their electrical energy needs. The point is that electrical energy supply from an electric system is usually much more convenient and economical than producing it individually. Some larger manufacturing firms find it feasible to provide their own electrical energy by using their waste energy (cogeneration) or having their own individual power plants.
In some cases legislation makes it mandatory to purchase the excess energy from these sources at rates generally higher than what the utility can produce it for. The fact remains that utilities must pay for the materials, labor and capital they require and pay taxes just like other businesses. In obtaining these commodities necessary to every business, utilities must compete for them at prices generally dictated by the market place, while the prices charged for the product produced electrical energy are limited by government agencies.
Since our first edition, electric systems have been moving toward deregulation in which both consumer and supplier will be doing business in a free market which has no direct effect on the material contained in the accompanying text. None of the presentations is intended as an engineering treatise, but they are designed to be informative, educational, and adequately illustrated. The text is designed as an educational and training resource for people in all walks of life who may be less acquainted with the subject. Any errors, accidental or otherwise, are attributed only to us.
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