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Energy and the Environment

The Electric Power Grid: Text-Only Version

The electric power grid diagram is an interactive diagram that introduces users to various components of the U.S. electric power grid. It illustrates the generation, delivery, storage, and end-users of electricity. Users can choose two options: “Today’s Electric Power Grid” and “See How the Grid is Evolving.” Today’s electricity grid shows the following components:

  • conventional and renewable energy generation;
  • electricity transmission and distribution;
  • different sectors that use electricity; and
  • some forms of distributed generation, such as onsite residential solar panels.

The electric grid of the future is similar to today’s grid, but it shows:

  • additional renewable energy generation sources,
  • modern electricity transmission and distribution technologies,
  • utility-scale electricity storage, and
  • end-user electricity storage in the form of electric vehicles.

The clickable elements within the diagram have corresponding pop-up text and links to other parts of EPA’s website that provide more detailed information. These descriptions and links are in the table below:

Clickable Element Text Link(s)
Combined Heat and Power Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, involves simultaneously producing electricity and heat from a single fuel source.  Learn more about distributed generation.
Commercial End-Users Commercial and government buildings account for about 36% of U.S. electricity use. Large uses include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration. Learn more about end-users.
Conventional Generation The United States generates about 85% of its electricity using conventional resources such as coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power. Learn more about centralized generation.
Distributed Generation Onsite solar panels are a form of distributed generation, which refers to electricity generation at or near the end-user. Learn more about distributed generation.
Distribution Electricity is delivered to consumers through a network of lower voltage distribution lines. Modern grid technologies can improve electricity distribution. Learn more about electricity delivery and opportunities to modernize it.
Energy Storage Energy storage technologies—including batteries, flywheels, compressed air, thermal, and pumped hydroelectricity—are increasingly being used to support electricity generation and delivery.  Learn more about energy storage.
Industrial End-Users The industrial sector, which includes industrial facilities, mining, agriculture, and construction, accounts for about 26% of U.S. electricity use. Large uses include machine processes, heating, and cooling. Learn more about end-users.
Renewable Energy Generation The United States generates about 12% of its electricity at hydroelectric dams, large wind and solar installations, and other centralized sources of electricity generation from renewable energy resources. Learn more about centralized generation.
Residential End-Users Homes account for about 38% of U.S. electricity use. Large uses include heating, cooling, water heating, refrigeration, and lighting. Learn more about end-users.
Substations Substations “step-down” high-voltage power from transmission lines to a lower voltage that can be distributed to customers. Learn more about electricity delivery and opportunities to modernize it.
Transmission Once electricity is generated at a centralized power plant, it travels long distances through a network of interconnected high-voltage transmission lines. Modern grid technologies can improve electricity transmission. Learn more about electricity delivery and opportunities to modernize it.
Transportation End-Users and Storage Electric vehicles are a small but growing category of end-users. Vehicles may also be used to store electricity to support electricity generation and delivery.  Learn more about end-users and electricity storage.

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