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Why do electric companies charge us for electricity?

Why do electric companies charge us for electricity, when they take back all of the electrons they give us?
Esther Collins from Somerset (Aged 15-25)

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2 Responses

  1. It’s true that the electrons complete a circuit and return to the electrical company (sort of – the National Grid is quite a complicated circuit, but basically they get the same current back).

    However, the electrons that return haven’t got the same energy as the ones that leave. To make a current flow requires a potential difference (or voltage) which “pushes” the current around (think about it like a pump in a central heating system). This requires energy from burning fossil fuels, reacting nuclear fuel, or using alternative energy resources. All of these require raw materials to build and run and/or people to maintain them. Even photovoltaic cells (solar panels) cost money to make, install, and occasionally give a wipe clean.

    Additionally, there’s the cost of maintaining the National Grid itself, making sure broken power lines and the like are fixed.

    So, while it’s true that the electrical companies get their electrons back, they still have to spend money giving them energy to carry and getting them to our homes.

    Hope this helps.

  2. A slight correction to the first reply. Because we have alternating current at 50 cycles per second the electrons are merely pushed backwords and forwards by the national grid. They provide the energy but the electrons in the wiring of your house are the same ones that were there when it was built. In one hundredth of a second, even at a high current, the electrons only move a fraction of a mm. before reversing.

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