An Electricity Transmission Primer for Energy Economists: Parts 1 and 2

94 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2012

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 10, 2012


This paper provides a technical primer for the energy economist wishing to study the optimal power flow problem, but, who like this paper’s author, find it difficult to simply plow through Schweppe et al. (1988). This paper’s aim is to provide the reader with sufficient technical background to calculate power transfer distribution factors (PTDF’s, or network shift factors) for a more complicated model than the simple 3-node model common to energy economics studies. The point of departure for this work is basic electrical engineering fundamentals. We start off Section 2 with a simple direct current (DC) circuit analysis, demonstrating Ohm’s law and Kirchhoff’s laws. As these are captured by very basic equations, we quickly move on to alternating current (AC) analysis. Here, we spend quite a bit of effort manipulating fairly straightforward (i.e. sinusoidal) AC voltage equations to derive equations for average voltage, current, and power in an AC circuit. Next, we delve into phase angles, showing how electrical components such as inductors and capacitors bring voltage and current “out of phase.” We then demonstrate both graphically and algebraically the effect of non-zero phase angles on resistance and power relations in an AC circuit. The goal of Section 2 is to familiarize the reader with concepts that economists and operations researchers generally take for granted, but are quite foreign to those of us who are self-taught.

Suggested Citation

Benjamin, Richard M., An Electricity Transmission Primer for Energy Economists: Parts 1 and 2 (December 10, 2012). USAEE Working Paper No. 12-149. Available at SSRN: or

Richard M. Benjamin (Contact Author)

Round Table Group ( email )

United States
410-672-5319 (Phone)

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