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The process of establishing a charge in an object.
The generation, distribution, and utilization of electricity.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the large-scale introduction into a national economy of electric power that is centrally produced at power plants that, with connecting transmission lines, form grids. Electrification makes possible the proper use of natural resources, a more efficient deployment of productive forces, the mechanization and automation of production, and increased labor productivity.

Electrification was begun in the late 19th century, when the first generators for the production of electric power were built and when techniques for transmitting electric power over considerable distances were mastered. A fossil-fuel-fired steam power plant was built in St. Petersburg in 1879 to supply power for lighting the Liteinyi Bridge. A few years later, a similar plant was constructed in Moscow to supply power for lighting the Lubianka Arcade. One of the first general-purpose fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants was built by T. A. Edison in New York in 1882. In 1913, Russia ranked eighth in the world in production of electricity. Power plants in Russia belonged primarily to foreign capital. The large joint-stock company known as the Electric Lighting Company of 1886 was controlled by the German firm Siemens and Halske, which built fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants in cities such as St. Petersburg, Moscow, Baku, and Łódź. The total capacity of Russia’s plants in 1900 was 80 megawatts (MW). By 1913 the figure had climbed to 1,141 MW and the plants produced a total of 2 billion kilowatt-hours (kW-hr) of electric energy.

USSR. Reconstruction and modernization of Russia’s electric-power industry was begun after the October Revolution of 1917. The industry’s equipment suffered considerable damage during World War I and the Civil War of 1918–20. The country’s largest power plants were nationalized between December 1917 and June 1918. At the same time, preparations were begun for the construction of large hydroelectric power plants and regional fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants.

The first plan for the electrification of Russia was developed in 1920 at V. I. Lenin’s initiative by GOELRO (the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia). It was based on Lenin’s formula “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country.” The Kashira State Regional Electric Power Plant and the Utkina Zavod’ Plant (now known as the Fifth State Regional Electric Power Plant of Lenenergo) began operation in 1922. The Kizel State Regional Electric Power Plant in the Urals opened in 1924, and the Gorky and Shatura state regional electric power plants, in 1925. On Nov. 8, 1927, the cornerstone for the Dniepr Hydroelectric Power Plant (Dneproges) was laid. By 1931, the principal tasks specified in the GOELRO plan with respect to increasing the capacity of regional power plants and producing electric energy had been accomplished.

During the five-year plans of 1929–40, large power grids were formed in the Ukraine and Byelorussia and in such regions as the Northwest USSR. In the early stages of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, equipment from many plants was evacuated to the rear, where new plants were put into operation in record time. Between 1942 and 1944, plants with a total capacity of 3.4 giga-watts (GW) were built, primarily in the Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Middle Asia. During the war, 61 large power plants with a combined capacity of approximately 5 GW were destroyed, and 14,000 boilers, 1,400 turbines, and more than 11,000 electric motors were removed to Germany.

After the war, electrification of the country proceeded at a rapid pace. In 1947, the USSR ranked second in the world (after the USA) in production of electricity; in 1975, the USSR produced more electric energy than the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Sweden, and Austria combined. The average annual increase in the USSR’s production has grown from 46.9 billion kW-hr between 1966 and 1970 to 58.4 billion kW-hr between 1971 and 1977. The installed capacity of electric power plants almost doubled between 1966 and 1977, and the USSR’s share of the world’s production of electric energy grew from 9.2 percent in 1950 to 16 percent in 1977. Table 1 presents data on the dynamics of electric-energy production in the USSR.

Electrification is based primarily on high-capacity fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants, which produce more than 80 percent of all electric energy. The two largest state regional electric power plants in the country, the Zaporozh’e and Uglegorsk plants, each have a capacity of 3.6 GW. In 1977 the number of fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants with a capacity of more than 1 GW was 51. Generating units rated at 300 MW numbered 137. The highest-rated units (800 MW each) were in use at the Slaviansk, Zaporozh’e and Uglegorsk state regional electric power plants. In 1977, a 1,200-MW unit was under construction at the Kostroma State Regional Electric Power Plant.

The aim of hydraulic power engineering has been to use water resources to meet the combined needs of electric-power generation, irrigation, inland water transport, water supply, and fish culture. In 1977, the USSR’s hydroelectric power plants had a total capacity of 45.2 GW and produced 147 billion kW-hr of electric energy, or 13 percent of the country’s total electric energy output. The 50th Anniversary of the USSR Krasnoiarsk Hydroelectric Power Plant, the largest hydroelectric plant in the world, had a capacity of 6 GW in 1973, with twelve 500-MW generating units. In 1977, the number of Soviet hydroelectric power plants with a capacity of at least 500 MW was 20; the combined capacities of these plants accounted for approximately two-thirds of the total capacity of the country’s hydroelectric power plants. It has become possible to construct hydroelectric power plants in permafrost areas, and the Ust’-Khantaika Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Taimyr Autonomous Okrug (formerly Taimyr National Okrug) and the Viliuisk Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Yakut ASSR have been commissioned.

The Volga and Dniepr hydroelectric systems were for the most part completed by the mid-1970’s. The largest system in the country, the Angara-Enisei System, is still under construction; it will provide approximately half of the electric energy produced by all the hydroelectric plants in the country. A pumped-storage hydroelectric power plant with a capacity of 225 MW has begun operating in Kiev, and the first experimental tidal power plant, at Kislaia Guba, has also begun operation.

After the start-up in 1954 of the world’s first atomic power plant, in Obninsk, the use of nuclear power became one of the most promising trends in electrification. In 1975, the USSR’s atomic power plants produced a total of 22 billion kW-hr of electric energy, or slightly more than 2 percent of the country’s electric-energy output. The largest atomic power plant in the USSR in 1977 was the Leningrad Atomic Power Plant, which is equipped with two multichannel graphite-moderated uranium reactors, each with a capacity of 1 GW. The first graphite-moderated reactor of this type was commissioned at the Kursk Atomic Power Plant in 1976. Another was started up at the Chernobyl’ Atomic Power Plant in 1977. Pressurized water reactors, each with a capacity of 440 MW, are operating in the Novovoro-nezhskii, Kola and Armenia atomic power plants. In 1973, a fast-neutron reactor with a capacity of 350 MW was started up at the Shevchenko Atomic Power Plant, which not only generates electric power but also desalts seawater. An atomic district heat and power plant has begun operation near Bilibino in Magadan Oblast. Several large atomic power plants with 1-GW reactors were under construction in 1977; among them were the Kalinin, Smolensk, Southern Ukraine, and Rovno plants.

Table 1. Output and capacity of electric power plants in the USSR
Production of electric energy (billion kW-hr)       
Fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants ...............0.57.843.278.5241.4616.5968.2
Total ...............0.58.448.691.2292.3740.91,150.0
Installed capacity (GW)       
Fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants ...............
Total ...............1.22.911.219.666.7166.2237.8

Integrated power grids, which have been formed since 1942, have played an important role in the electrification of the country. The merging of the power systems of the Central, Ural, and Middle Volga regions laid the foundation for the creation of the Integrated Electric Power Grid of the European Part of the USSR. When the integrated power systems of the Southern, Northwestern, Transcaucasian, Northern Caucasus, Severnyi Kazakhstan, Kola, and Omsk regions were joined to this system, the Integrated Electric Power Grid of the USSR was formed. In 1977, this power grid comprised more than 900 plants, which produced 867 billion kW-hr of electric energy, or 75.4 percent of the total electric-energy output of the USSR. Among other integrated power grids operating in 1977 in the USSR were the system in Siberia, which had a capacity of 30.1 GW, and the system in Middle Asia, which had a capacity of 16.1 GW. Centralized power supply through the integrated power grids accounted for 93.5 percent of the total supply in 1977.

The data given in Table 2 characterize the structure of the USSR’s electric-energy consumption between 1965 and 1977.

Table 2. Production and consumption of electric energy in the national economy of the USSR (billion kW-hr)
Production of electric energy ...............506.7740.91,150.1
Consumption of electric energy ...............505.2735.71,138.5
Industry ...............349.4488.4712.2
Construction ...............11.915.023.2
Transportation ...............37.154.486.9
Agriculture ...............21.138.588.3
Other sectors ...............50.681.1133.7
Losses in public-use networks ...............35.158.394.2
Export ...............

The principal industrial users of electric power are the metallurgical, machine-building, metalworking, fuel, chemical, and petrochemical industries. Almost three-fourths of the total electric energy consumed by industry is used by electric motors and illumination devices. Industrial electrification has led to the creation of industries whose production processes are based on the use of electric power; for example, electricity is used in the manufacture of aluminum, ferroalloys, high-grade steels, and nonferrous metals, as well as in various electrochemical manufacturing processes and electric welding. The electric power-labor ratio of industry in 1976 was more than four times greater than the figure for 1950.

As a result of a more than twofold increase between 1966 and 1977 in the total length of pipelines used for transporting natural gas, oil, and petroleum products, the amount of electric energy consumed by users of this mode of transportation rose from 5.6 billion kW-hr to 21.5 billion kW-hr. During the same period, the growing use of street cars, trolley buses, and subways in urban transit systems led to an increase in the amount of electric energy consumed by the systems from 3.9 billion kW-hr to 7.5 billion kW-hr. The production of equipment used in electrified urban transit systems increased markedly, and electrification of the railroads was expanded.

Electrification of agriculture is one of the most important prerequisites for the development of farming as an industry. Supplying kolkhozes and spvkhozes with electricity from state power systems makes it possible to abandon small, uneconomical rural power plants. In 1956, state power systems supplied 30 percent of the electric energy consumed by agriculture; by 1976, this figure had grown to more than 90 percent. The total length of rural overhead power transmission lines grew from 1.9 million km in 1965 to 2.7 million km in 1970 and to 3.1 million km in 1975. In 1975, the total rated power of electric motors used in agriculture was 45 GW.

Electrification of agriculture encompasses land cultivation, agricultural production, and the mechanization of labor-intensive operations in animal husbandry and poultry farming and in repair shops and auxiliary enterprises. In 1976, 84 percent of the cows milked on kolkhozes and sovkhozes were milked with electric milking machines, and 89 percent of the sheep sheared were shorn with electric shears. Water for 80 percent of the cattle farms and 92 percent of the swine-raising farms was supplied with electrically driven units. In addition to its use in refrigeration units, electric power is also employed, for purposes of heating, in incubators, in equipment used for the irradiation of young stock, in hothouses, and on livestock-raising and poultry farms. The electric power-labor ratio for agriculture more than doubled between 1971 and 1976 and reached a level of 1,962 kW-hr per worker per year.

Foreign socialist countries. In 1977, socialist countries, including the USSR, produced 24.3 percent of the world’s electric energy; the figure was 15 percent in 1950. Data on the production of electric energy by socialist countries are given in Table 3.

With the exception of Yugoslavia, the People’s Republic of China, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants are the principal source of electricity in socialist countries, producing 80–99 percent of all electric energy. The most widely used fuels are brown coals and hard coals, except in Rumania, where natural gas is predominant and constitutes more than 50 percent of the fuel used. The largest hydro-electric power plant is the Iron Gate Plant on the Danube River, on the Yugoslavia-Rumania border (Djerdap); its capacity is 2.1 GW.

Nuclear power is coming into use in several countries; atomic power plants are now operating in the German Democratic Republic, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. Plants are under construction in such countries as Hungary and Yugoslavia. The socialist countries with the most extensive power-transmission-line systems operating at voltages of 110 kilovolt (kV) or higher are Poland, with 29,700 km of power lines; the German Democratic Republic, with 22,500 km of lines; Rumania, with 17,300 km of lines; and Czechoslovakia, with 14,600 km of lines. The power systems of the European member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) are interconnected and together form the integrated power grid known as Mir. In 1962, in Prague, the Central Traffic-control Office was created to organize parallel operation of the power systems of the European COMECON countries.

Table 3. Production of electric energy in foreign socialist countries (billion kW-hr)
1Figure for 1976
Albania ...............
Bulgaria ...............10.219.529.7
China, People’s Republic of ...............68.0274.02125.02
Cuba ...............
Czechoslovakia ...............
German Democratic Republic ...............53.667.792.0
Hungary ...............11.214.523.4
Korea, People’s Democratic Republic of ...............13.316.528.0
Mongolia ...............
Poland ...............43.864.5109.4
Rumania ...............
Vietnam, Socialist Republic of ...............
Yugoslavia ...............15.526.048.6

Capitalist countries. The highest levels of electrification have been attained in the industrially developed European countries, in the USA, in Canada, and in Japan (see Table 4). In the 1960’s, electrification projects were begun in several African, Asian, and Latin American countries.

Electrification is based primarily on fossil-fuel-fired steam power plants in almost all capitalist nations, with the exception of Austria, Norway, Sweden, and Canada, all of whom have substantial water resources. In 1976 the largest hydroelectric power plants in capitalist countries were the plant at Churchill Falls, Canada, with a capacity of 5,225 MW; the Grand Coulee Plant in the USA, with a capacity of 3,450 MW; the John Day Plant in the USA, with a capacity of 2,700 MW; and the plant at Aswan, Egypt, with a capacity of 2,100 MW. Pumped-storage hydroelectric power plants, which provide power during peak loads, had a

Table 4. Production of electric energy in developed capitalist countries (billion kW-hr)
USA ...............1,221.01,731.72,200.0
Japan ...............189.2361.2515.0
Canada ...............146.4207.8297.8
Germany, Federal Republic of ...............168.8237.2326.6
Great Britain ...............196.5249.2277.0
France ...............106.1146.8203.6
Italy ...............83.0117.4162.8

total capacity of 34 GW in 1974. The largest pumped-storage plant in the world is located in Ludington, Mich.; its capacity is 1,820 MW.

The use of nuclear power is developing at a fast pace. In 1976, atomic power plants were operating or under construction in 34 countries. The capacity of the world’s largest atomic power plant, which is located at Browns Ferry in the USA, is 3.29 GW. By the mid-1970’s, several multinational interconnected power systems were in operation: a system interconnecting the eastern states of the USA and Canada, with a total capacity of 40 GW; the European system known as the Union for the Coordination of the Transmission of Electricity (UCPTE), which serves Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Switzerland and which has a capacity of 200 GW; and the Scandinavian Committee for Power Supply (Nordal), which has a total capacity of 50 GW and interconnects Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. AC power transmission lines with a voltage of 735–765kV are in operation in the USA and in Canada, 800-kV and DC lines are operating in the USA. European power transmission lines operate at voltages that range from 110 kV to between 380 and 400 kV. A 200-kV cable crossing the English Channel connects users in Great Britain and France.

A shortage of energy sources in the industrially developed capitalist countries is forcing them to import fuel from oil-producing countries. A drastic increase in oil prices that took place in 1973 aggravated the problems associated with electrification in the capitalist countries.


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