What is Electricity?


Electricity is unlike most consumer goods because it has no shelf life. It cannot be created, packaged and warehoused by a producer, shipped to a wholesaler and then stored and displayed by a retailer until a consumer chooses to purchase it. It is not even like other utilities. Natural gas, for example, is a fluid that can be stored in tanks or pipelines to improve the supply when demand is high or production is low.

Electricity is produced in real time as customers demand it. Since demand fluctuates, it is continually reviewed and anticipated to ensure enough power is steadily available to meet the needs of consumers.

The basic unit of electric power is a watt. The higher the wattage, the more energy the electrical device will need to operate. For example, light bulbs are available in a range of wattages (ie: 60-watt, 100-watt and 150-watt), depending on the brightness of the light.

Of course, how long a bulb or other device is operating also determines the amount of electricity used. The standard measurement of electricity includes both the amount and duration of power used. This standard is the kilowatt hour (kWh), the amount of energy consumed by a load of 1,000 watts operating for one hour.

kWh = The amount of energy consumed by a load of 1,000 watts operating for one hour.

For example:
1 standard light bulb @ 100 watts for 10 hours = 1 kilowatt hour
10 light bulbs @ 100 watts each for 1 hour = 1 kilowatt hour

Here's how the use of household appliances may impact residential electricity bills.


 6¢ / kWh

100 Watt bulb 6 hours/day

$ 1.10

Microwave Oven 20 minutes/day


30-inch range 2 hours/day 


New Refrigerator top mount freezer, 18 cu. ft. Continuous 


Old Refrigerator
top mount freezer, 17 cu. ft. circa 1988


Clothes dryer  8 loads/week 


Clothes washer (eg. heating water)  8 loads /week


Outdoor Hot Tub
Heating pump
 8 hours/day


Computer & printer 3 hours/day 


Television: 26 colour 4 hours/day


Furnace Fan Normal heat cycle    


Source: EPCOR

The generation of electricity, is measured in megawatts (MW)
MW = 1,000 kilowatts

For example, a generator with capacity of one megawatt produces one-megawatt hour (MWh) when it runs consistently for one hour. Thus, if it runs consistently for a year (24 hours x 365 days) it produces 8,760 MWh (8,760,000 kWh) in a year. That's enough power to meet the annual consumption needs of about 1,000 homes.

 Electric Energy & Standard Unit
 1 watt = standard unit of electrical energy
 1,000 watts = 1 kilowatt
 1,000 kilowatts = 1 megawatt (1,000,000 watts)
 1,000 megawatts = 1 gigawatt (1,000,000,000 watts)




Examples of Electricity Use

Average Alberta residence  600kWh/month
A city block consisting of 20 houses  13,000 kWh/month
Convenience store 2,200 kWh/month 
Farm 1,500 kWh/month  
12-story office tower 300,000 kWh/month 
High rise apartment  90,000 kWh/month 
Elementary school 21,250 kWh/month  
Seniors lodge  30,000 kWh/month 
Greenhouse 50,000 kWh/month  
Hospital 1,875,000 kWh/month 
Large industrial 32,500,000 kWh/month