Electric-power transmission is the bulk transfer of electrical energy, from generating power plants to electrical substations located near demand centers. This is distinct from the local wiring between high-voltage substations and customers, which is typically referred to as electric power distribution.
Transmission lines, when interconnected with each other, become transmission networks. In the US, these are typically referred to as "power grids" or just "the grid." In the UK, the network is known as the "National Grid". North America has three major grids, the Western Interconnection, the Eastern Interconnection and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid, often referred to as the Western System, the Eastern System and the Texas System.
Historically, transmission and distribution lines were owned by the same company, but starting in the 1990s, many countries have liberalized the regulation of the electricity market in ways that have led to the separation of the electricity transmission business from the distribution business.
Most transmission lines use high-voltage three-phase alternating current (AC), although single phase AC is sometimes used in railway electrification systems. High-voltage direct-current (HVDC) technology is used for greater efficiency in very long distances (typically hundreds of miles (kilometres)), or in submarine power cables (typically longer than 30 miles (50 km)). HVDC links are also used to stabilize against control problems in large power distribution networks where sudden new loads or blackouts in one part of a network can otherwise result in synchronization problems and cascading failures.
Electricity is transmitted at high voltages (110 kV or above) to reduce the energy lost in long-distance transmission. Power is usually transmitted through overhead power lines. Underground power transmission has a significantly higher cost and greater operational limitations but is sometimes used in urban areas or sensitive locations.