Who Really Wastes Electricity? Article.

Today’s rant will be about electricity. These energy companies are just taking the biscuit.

Once upon a time Britain had a green, sustainable power supply. The industrious 1800’s were a time when manufacturers built their mills next to a river and used the power of the water to do the work which was needed via watermills. People and trades made use of the winds too, as there were plenty of windmills…some people lived and worked in these buildings.

from Construction of Transmission and Distribution lines Berlin 2010
from Construction of Transmission and Distribution lines Berlin 2010

Nowadays our electric supply is more complicated and less in our control. Last week, I received a letter from my electric supply company asking me again to get a smart metre fitted so I could see how much electric I was wasting.

Now hang on a frigging minute. I believe the constant nagging at end users of energy is both highly hypocritical and fast becoming demoralising.

Ohms Law dictates that V = I R 

We are constantly bombarded with energy cutting ideas because ‘energy supply’ costs have gone up, or so my supplier tells me. Yet the energy lost by delivering via overhead cables which are not sheaved is far worse than you or I could waste in a year, one could argue, a life time.

The electric supply companies produce 32,000 volts to deliver 240 volts to our homes.

Let me put this into a perspective you can relate to:

Imagine that your water company is supplying 32,000 litres through leaky pipes for your home which needs 240 litres. 

Now I’d call this waste, there is no need (nowadays) to produce so much electricity to begin because it could be delivered more efficiently – this is in the company’s control.

We are all taught at school that pylons are dangerous and not to fly kites near them etc. The reason being is that the electric is running along the wires without any protection – it isn’t ‘sheaved’. As the wires are beyond the reach of most of us, it is deemed safe to be located above domestic homes and in our streets.

When I say the cable is not sheaved, I’m saying it has no protection. It doesn’t have the same rubber or plastic casing on that you would see on your wires at home. The casing which we see in all our wires stops the electric escaping so it’s safe for us to touch. 

When you plug in your TV, 240 volts travels from the street supply to your house supply to your TV through the wire. The plastic sheaving on your wires stops any electricity from leaking away from the metal conductor inside. There is no loss of electric. Electric is moved from one place to another by conductors. This is usually copper in your household cable wires protected by a type of poly plastic. 

As electric travels from one place to another very easily it is only necessary to provide it with means to travel. Anyone who has had an electric shock or even felt a static charge from an object, or a person will tell you that there was no effort involved. Electric is quite capable of jumping across air too…see lightening strikes.

The current wires between the pylons that we have running across United Kingdom are known dangers because they have conducting cable that is not sheaved. It is not the same cable which is fitted for underground high voltage cable. Underground high voltage cable has many protective cases as it should.

diagram of sheaving on high voltage underground cable
diagram of sheaving on high voltage underground cable

In other words, the current pylons that we have running across UK leak electric because they have no protection but as they are high it’s a managed risk. People are not going to get electrocuted. However, no one discusses the amount of electric wasted or lost through these open cables.

The electric companies send such a vast amount of electric down the wires purely because of the amount being lost due to the uninsulated cables. This is a fact. Not all the electric ‘disappears’ (via heat dissipation) and the huge amount that remains is transformed down up and down to supply industry and then on to supply homes.

In order to step down the supply to deliver a safe amount to the street, massive transformers are used to bring it to the standard 230-240 volts for homes. Now, this is the point where all the electric left which hasn’t been lost during the journey is essentially transformed down into an electric supply we can use. The amount of that energy which is lost is proportional to the distance it has travelled.

Graphic of different types of Heavy Voltage transformers used to step electric up and down.
Graphic of different types of Heavy Voltage transformers used to step electric up and down.

After electric gets supplied to my home my supply company then wants to know how I use it. I’d like them to explain to me why they are happy with 24,760 volts that they lose when supplying 240 volts to my home.

Sheaving these cables would really help all of us as it would mean not having to produce such huge amounts of electric to begin with. This would in turn help the renewable energies meet the supply and stop energy companies switching back to very bad energy sources such as nuclear power.

national grid
simple graphic stolen from google which shows how the nation grid works in United Kingdom – it is different for other countries

Thanks for reading. Any comments always welcome.


    • The loss of energy is avoidable by sheaving the cables. You are correct in that high voltage is needed but the power loss could be lessened over the distance if less of it was escaping…remember they can step it up or down too. This is about the energy companies not doing their bit. They’ve been using the same delivery system (pretty much) since the first time they found they could move electric. Except now they use metal conductors rather than hemp cords. It’s time for these energy companies to take a bashing because I’m so fed up of being told to save this and save that when they waste so much!

  1. Large utility companies are very wasteful. Consider California and their perennial drought situation. They allow the rains to overflow the rivers and go out to sea each year, without consideration of capturing that water for future use.

    • I have to agree. I live on an island, surrounded by sea and riddled with little fresh water rivers. England is covered in rivers. Also it rains constantly. Yet this year I’ve already had notice of a drought – it’s October. I pay over £400 a year for my water. One of millions. Parts of England are flooded but they say they will not be able to supply the demand. One has to wonder what they do with it. After all, water doesn’t disappear…not really, it just moved around. I have been to the middle east where they are growing watermelons in the desert – some kind of desalination of the sea water…a little investment in their own product rather than having a moral poke at the end user constantly would be my ideal.