Where does power come from?
Each month, you pay your electric bill to SNEW. But where does that electricity come from? Generally, it’s not produced in your neighborhood — most electricity travels quite the distance from where it’s generated across heavy-duty transmission lines to reach local distribution systems and, finally, your home.
SNEW and its wholesale partner, Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC), work closely on many issues to bring the best, energy-related services possible at affordable rates.
SNEW is responsible for building and maintaining overhead and underground lines and equipment to deliver power.
SNEW does not generate electricity. Instead, we purchase electric power at a wholesale rate from CMEEC and distribute the electricity to customers.
Electric power is often produced through a variety of generation sources like nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind, hydro and diesel.
Electricity is produced from four categories of power plants. They are stacked, like building blocks, from the least cost to the highest per kilowatt hour produced.
- Base load generation – These units tend to be very large and are typically coal and nuclear fuel units. It takes time for these units to start generating power. In some cases, it can take three to four days before a plant is generating at 100 percent of capacity. Base load plants are the most expensive to build, but are the most cost effective and reliable, and often have the most power output. The longer a base load plant runs, the more capital cost of ownership is spread out over the sale of electricity.
- Intermediate units – These units typically use more expensive fuels but are sometimes cheaper to build. Natural gas is used as the main fuel source. Intermediate plants come online after all the base load units are running, but more power is needed. In Nebraska, intermediate units make up about 15 percent of all generating units and cost about three times more than base load plants per megawatt hour.
- Peaking units – These are the highest cost units to run and typically include either natural gas or diesel fuel. These generating plants are used when everything else is going full blast, yet more power is needed – like on a hot summer day. Peaking plants can quickly generate power and are completely shut off when not needed.
- Renewable energy – Renewable generation includes wind, solar and hydroelectric generation along with anything else that can produce electricity from a source that is renewable. These units run whenever they can – when the wind is blowing, the sun is shining or when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lets water out of the dams.
Once generated, electricity can’t be stored efficiently. Instead, CMEEC sends electricity to local distribution systems over high-voltage transmission lines.
The more electricity packed onto a line (by increasing the voltage), the farther it will travel. Once power reaches its destination, electric distribution utilities, like SNEW, use transformers at substations to reduce the voltage before sending it over their lines to your home or business.