When you flick on a light switch or plug in your computer you’re using electricity. But where does it come from and how does it reach your house?

About 40 percent of the energy from all energy resources is used to generate electricity, more than for any other single purpose. Scientific and technical understanding of energy has allowed us to generate, transmit and use electricity to heat homes, charge phones, light streets and so much more. In 2012 the U.S. generated more than four thousand billion kilowatt hours of electricity. That’s enough energy to drive today’s electric cars almost 12 trillion miles, or to the Sun and back nearly 12,000 times.



Click on the numbers above to learn how electricity gets to your home.

As modern society became electrified there developed a network of power plants, transmission lines, substations and other components of an electricity transmission and distribution system. This network is called the “electrical grid,” or simply the grid. In the U.S., the grid is composed of approximately 6,600 power plants, over 300,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and tens of millions of final electricity-user destinations.


This interactive explainer is featured in our Energy e-book series. Click on the thumbnails below to download our free e-books or subscribe to our iTunes U course. You can also visit our e-books page to view our other offerings.

Energy e-book cover 2013_4

Examine the science of energy, from what it is to where it comes from.

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Energy e-book cover 2013_4

Explore how humans use energy — from generating electricity to developing energy-efficient technologies.

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How Does Electricity Get to Your Home? 3 May,2017QUEST Staff

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QUEST Staff

QUEST, an Emmy Award-winning multimedia science series, has a new focus on the science of sustainability.The half-hour magazine style episodes are produced by a collaboration of six public broadcasters around the country and explore a wide variety of sustainability issues related to food, energy, water, climate and biodiversity. The story segments featured in each show are introduced by on-camera host, environmental journalist Simran Sethi. The series also includes half-hour specials that focus on a single topic.

All 2013-2014 television programs can be viewed online in their entirety or as individual segments by clicking on the titles and images listed below. The programs are also broadcast in each of our six PBS partner regions including North Carolina, Ohio, Nebraska, Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Check local listings for broadcast dates and times.

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