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In 1993, the worldwide production of electricity was 12.3 trillion kilowatt hours (United Nations 1995). (A kilowatt hour is the amount of electricity needed to light ten 100-watt bulbs for 1 hour.) One can judge the magnitude of this endeavour by considering data from the United States, which alone produced 25% of the total energy. The US electric utility industry, a mix of public and privately owned entities, generated 3.1 trillion kilowatt hours in 1993, using more than 10,000 generating units (US Department of Energy 1995). The portion of this industry that is owned by private investors employs 430,000 people in electric operations and maintenance, with revenues of US$200 billion annually.

Electricity is generated in plants which utilize fossil fuel (petroleum, natural gas or coal) or use nuclear energy or hydropower. In 1990, for example, 75% of France’s electrical power came from nuclear power stations. In 1993, 62% of the electricity generated worldwide came from fossil fuels, 19% from hydropower, and 18% from nuclear power. Other reusable sources of energy such as wind, solar, geothermal or biomass account for only a small proportion of world electric production. From generating stations, electricity is then transmitted over interconnected networks or grids to local distribution systems and on through to the consumer.

The workforce that makes all of this possible tends to be primarily male and to possess a high degree of technical skill and knowledge of “the system”. The tasks that these workers undertake are quite diverse, having elements in common with the construction, manufacturing, materials handling, transportation and communications industries. The next few articles describe some of these operations in detail. The articles on electric maintenance standards and environmental concerns also highlight major US government regulatory initiatives that affect the electric utility industry.



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Part I. The Body
Part II. Health Care
Part III. Management & Policy
Part IV. Tools and Approaches
Part V. Psychosocial and Organizational Factors
Part VI. General Hazards
Part VII. The Environment
Part VIII. Accidents and Safety Management
Part IX. Chemicals
Part X. Industries Based on Biological Resources
Part XI. Industries Based on Natural Resources
Iron and Steel
Mining and Quarrying
Oil Exploration and Distribution
Power Generation and Distribution
Part XII. Chemical Industries
Part XIII. Manufacturing Industries
Part XIV. Textile and Apparel Industries
Part XV. Transport Industries
Part XVI. Construction
Part XVII. Services and Trade
Part XVIII. Guides

Power Generation and Distribution References

Lamarre, L. 1995. Assessing the risks of utility hazardous air pollutants. EPRI Journal 20(1):6.

National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. 1996. Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

United Nations. 1995. 1993 Energy Statistics Yearbook. New York: United Nations.

Uranium Institute. 1988. The Safety of Nuclear Power Plants. London: Uranium Institute.

US Department of Energy. 1995. Electric Power Annual 1994. Vol. 1. Washington, DC: US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels.

US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 1994. 29 CFR Part 1910.269, Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution: Electrical Protective Equipment; Final Rule. Federal Register, Vol. 59.

US Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). Interim Report on Utility Hazardous Air Pollutants. Washington, DC: EPA.

Wertheimer, N and E Leeper. 1979. Electrical wiring configurations and childhood cancer. Am J Epidemiol 109:273-284.