Electric Power Industry

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Electric Power Industry


the leading component of a country’s energy industry, which provides for the electrification of the national economy through the efficient production and distribution of electricity. It is of great importance to the economy of any industrially developed country because of the advantages of electricity over other types of energy, such as the relative ease of transmission over great distances, the ease of distribution to consumers, and the ready conversion to other forms of energy (mechanical, thermal, chemical, light, and other types). A unique feature of the electric power industry is its simultaneous generation and consumption of electricity.

The major portion of electricity is generated in large electric power plants: fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants, hydroelectric power plants, and atomic power plants are connected with one another and with the consumers by means of power transmission lines to form an electric power grid.

In the Soviet Union development of the electric power industry has always been of prime concern for the development of the national economy. The USSR is among the world’s foremost countries in the generation of electricity.

The electrification of a country depends on both scientific achievements and industrial advances. In the early 1920’s two major trends in the electric power industry were clearly outlined in the GOELRO plan: concentration of the production of electricity through the construction of large regional power plants and centralization of electric power distribution. Establishment of the industry was based on the creation of power plants and their fuel supplies, the construction of power transmission lines, and the development of electrical devices and power equipment. On the other hand, it also depends on the development of the theoretical foundations of electrical engineering—a scientific prerequisite for construction in the industry. In order to achieve these goals, important studies were made in the fields of high-voltage engineering and the theory of stability of electric systems, and design methods were worked out for high-power generators, transformers, and other electric machines, drives, and equipment. An electrical technology was created, automatic control was introduced for electric systems, and the methods of physical and mathematical modeling were used to design and study electric power grids.

In the USSR fundamental scientific research for the electric power industry is conducted at the G. M. Krzhizhanovskii Power Institute (Moscow), the Research and Development Institute for Energy Systems Design (Moscow), the V. I. Lenin All-Union Electrical Engineering Institute (Moscow), the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Direct Current (Leningrad), the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Current Sources (Moscow), the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Electrical Machine Building (Leningrad), the Siberian Power Engineering Institute of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (Irkutsk), and the Institute of Electrodynamics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (Kiev), as well as at many higher educational institutions, such as the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute, and the Leningrad Electrical Engineering Institute.

Important contributions to the development of the industry have been made by the Soviet scientists G. M. Krzhizhanovskii, A. V. Vinter, R. E. Klasson, V. F. Mitkevich, M. P. Kostenko, L. R. Neiman, M. A. Shatelen, A. A. Gorev, P. S. Zhdanov, S. A. Lebedev, K. A. Krug, G. N. Petrov, I. A. Glebov, D. G. Zhimerin, N. S. Lidorenko, M. V. Kostenko, V. I. Popkov, and V. M. Tuchkevich.

The electrical engineering and power machine-building industries have been created on the basis of the scientific achievements of the electric power industry. Together they produce practically all the basic types of electrical engineering and power equipment: boiler and turbine units, electric motors and electric generators, transformers, electric devices, equipment for automation and protection, and equipment for power transmission lines. The design and planning of power plants and the use of electric power installations and systems have grown substantially, and methods for the shared, stable operation of long-distance power grids have been developed. Concentration in the industry has been achieved by building fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants with a unit power of up to 3 gigawatts (GW; the Krivoi Rog State Regional Electric Power Plant No. 2), hydroelectric power plants rated at 4–6 GW (the Bratsk and Krasnoiarsk plants), and atomic power plants of 4 GW (the Leningrad plant).

In the development of the electric power industry, provision is made for establishing the optimum ratio between the electricity produced by fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants and that produced by hydroelectric plants. In the USSR more than 80 percent of all the electricity produced is generated by fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants. In the European sections of the country hydroelectric power plants are being used increasingly as switchable and reserve power sources that make it possible to cover load peaks during the day and to ensure stable operation of the country’s electric power supply. In Siberia and Middle Asia powerful hydroelectric cascades are being planned and constructed to provide integrated use of water resources to meet the needs of the electric power industry as well as those of water transport, water supply, irrigation, and fish farming. A typical feature of the electric power industry of the USSR is the combined production of electricity and heat by district heat and power plants. More than one-third of all heating requirements are satisfied by district heat supply, which makes it possible to effect substantial improvements in the sanitary condition of the air mass around cities and to achieve a substantial fuel saving.

Two trends can be seen in the creation of a material basis for the electric power industry: (1) the construction of atomic power plants, district heat and power plants that operate on fossil fuels, and switchable fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants and hydroelectric power plants, as well as pumped-storage hydroelectric power plants in the European sections of the country; and (2) an increase in the construction of fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants and hydroelectric power plants in the eastern sections of the country, where efficient use can be made of the cheap water and coal resources of northern Kazakhstan and Siberia to generate electricity. At the same time, research and industrial experiments are being conducted on new methods of producing electricity (fast reactors and magnetohydrodynamic generators).

Centralization of electric power supply logically led, first, to the construction of regional electric power plants and, later, to the establishment of nine united electric power grids, with the subsequent formation of the Integrated Electric Power Grid (EEES) of the European section of the USSR, which was later expanded to serve the entire country as the most important fundamental element in the planned electrification of the country. Since 1976 the EEES of the USSR has been operating jointly with the electric power grids of the member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). By the mid-1970’s it had achieved a total installed capacity (in the USSR) of more than 150 GW, with a total capacity of approximately 220 GW for the power plants in the USSR.

Centralization of electric power supply necessitated the construction of new high-voltage (35 kilovolts and higher) power transmission lines. The total length of these lines increased from 167,000 km in 1960 to 600,000 km in 1975. Centralized electric power generation in 1976 accounted for 97 percent of all electricity produced. Independent electric systems have also been developed, generally for special purposes (such as space and marine applications). The electric power industry occupies the leading place in the country’s energy industry and constitutes the material basis for increased social productivity of labor. The production of electricity in 1977 totaled more than 1 trillion kilowatt-hours (kW-hr).

The constantly increasing proportion of electricity in the total energy consumed (from 5–6 percent in 1960 to 15–18 percent in 1975) demonstrates an important trend in the development of the electric power industry. In a period of 20 years (from the early 1950’s to the early 1970’s) the level of consumption of electricity supplied for all types of processes (power, high-temperature, and other processes) rose by 350 billion kW-hr, and the productive consumption of electricity increased by 200 million gigacalories, with a total contribution to the economy valued at 12–13 billion rubles. By 1977 a sound economic foundation had been achieved for the electrification of stationary power processes in the USSR. The use of electricity increased in industry for production needs (particularly in the machine tool industry, agricultural machine building, the electrical engineering and chemical industries, and nonferrous metallurgy), in railroad transportation (electrified railroads accounted for approximately 50 percent of the total traffic), in urban and pipeline transportation, in agricultural production, and in everyday life.

The development of the electric power industry in the foreign socialist countries is characterized by increasing production at increasing rates. The electricity production per capita in 1975 ranged from 1,900 kW-hr in Hungary and to 5,000 kW-hr in the German Democratic Republic.

The electric power systems of the COMECON member countries are integrated by means of interconnections to form the Mir integrated electric power grid, which has a central traffic-control center. This integration has definite advantages in that reliability and switching capability of the power supply are improved and the energy sources can be used more efficiently. The COMECON countries have developed electrical engineering and power machine-building industries that provide the basis for the socialistic integration of production. In 1974 the COMECON countries manufactured AC electric motors with unit power ratings in excess of 0.25 kilowatts and a total power of approximately 25 GW. The production of electric generators, electrical engineering equipment, and automation equipment is also being improved and expanded.

In the capitalist and developing countries the development of the electric power industry varies markedly. In the major capitalist countries the production of electricity is increasing but at decreasing rates; the gap between the industry levels of development in the major capitalist countries and the developing countries is extremely wide. Approximately two-thirds of the world’s electricity is produced by the USA, Western Europe, and Japan; if the contribution of the socialist countries is excluded, the proportion increases to approximately four-fifths. In the developing countries, where nearly three-fourths of the earth’s population lives, a little more than 15 percent of the world’s electric energy is consumed. In the USA about 40 percent of the electricity produced is used by industry and 40–50 percent by public and residential customers. This stems from the predominance of buildings with only a few stories and the advantages of a warm climate. As a result centralized heat supply has very limited application, and the use of electricity for air conditioning, usually in combination with heating, is greater. In the countries of Western Europe, the proportion of electricity used by public and residential customers is fairly high (as much as 30 percent), which is also due to the comparatively low development of central heat supply. The electric power industry in the capitalist countries is characterized by the beginning of mass construction of atomic power plants and the general introduction of highly switchable equipment (gas turbines and pumped-storage installations, steam-turbine units operating at subcritical steam parameters, and the like).

The status of the electric power industry in different countries may be characterized by the per capita consumption of electricity, which is determined to a considerable degree by the specific nature of a country’s energy sources, the electrical consumption rates of its industry, and the level of industrial development. Thus, in 1975, Norway had the highest per capita production of electricity—19,800 kW-hr. Canada registered approximately 12,-000 kW-hr; Iceland, 10,000 kW-hr; the USA, 9,800 kW-hr; and Sweden, 8,500 kW-hr. For the countries of Western Europe (the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain) and for Japan, the annual per capita production of electricity was between 2,600 and 5,000 kW-hr. For a number of developing nations in Africa (Somalia, Chad, the Sudan, and Ethiopia) the index is no more than 25 kW-hr; in some countries of South America (Paraguay, Bolivia, and Ecuador) it is less than 200 kW-hr; and in India and Pakistan it is less than 150 kW-hr.


Elektroenergetika SSSR v 1973. Moscow, 1974.
Kirillin, V. “Energetika—problemy i perspektivy.” Kommunist, no. 1, 1975.
Energetika SSSR v 1976–1980 gg. Moscow, 1977.
Elektrifikatsiia SSSR, (1917–1967). Moscow, 1967.
Elektrifikatsiia SSSR, (1967–1977). Moscow, 1977.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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