Total Losses in Power Distribution and Transmission Lines (1)

Total Losses in Power Distribution and Transmission Lines (on photo: Power sunset over Kampala City, Uganda)


Power generated in power stations pass through large and complex networks like transformers, overhead lines, cables and other equipment and reaches at the end users. It is fact that the unit of electric energy generated by Power Station does not match with the units distributed to the consumers. Some percentage of the units is lost in the distribution network.

This difference in the generated and distributed units is known as Transmission and Distribution loss. Transmission and Distribution loss are the amounts that are not paid for by users.

T&D Losses = (Energy Input to feeder(Kwh) – Billed Energy to Consumer(Kwh)) / Energy Input kwh x 100

Distribution Sector considered as the weakest link in the entire power sector. Transmission Losses is approximate 17% while Distribution Losses is approximate 50%.

There are two types of Transmission and Distribution Losses:

  1. Technical Losses
  2. Non Technical Losses (Commercial Losses)

1. Technical Losses

The technical losses are due to energy dissipated in the conductors, equipment used for transmission line, transformer, subtransmission line and distribution line and magnetic losses in transformers.

Technical losses are normally 22.5%, and directly depend on the network characteristics and the mode of operation.

The major amount of losses in a power system is in primary and secondary distribution lines. While transmission and sub-transmission lines account for only about 30% of the total losses. Therefore the primary and secondary distribution systems must be properly planned to ensure within limits.

  • The unexpected load increase was reflected in the increase of technical losses above the normal level
  • Losses are inherent to the distribution of electricity and cannot be eliminated.

There are two Type of Technical Losses.

1. Permanent / Fixed Technical losses

  • Fixed losses do not vary according to current. These losses take the form of heat and noise and occur as long as a transformer is energized
  • Between 1/4 and 1/3 of technical losses on distribution networks are fixed losses. Fixed losses on a network can be influenced in the ways set out below
  • Corona Losses
  • Leakage Current Losses
  • Dielectric Losses
  • Open-circuit Losses
  • Losses caused by continuous load of measuring elements
  • Losses caused by continuous load of control elements

2. Variable Technical losses

Variable losses vary with the amount of electricity distributed and are, more precisely, proportional to the square of the current. Consequently, a 1% increase in current leads to an increase in losses of more than 1%.

  • Between 2/3 and 3/4 of technical (or physical) losses on distribution networks are variable Losses.
  • By increasing the cross sectional area of lines and cables for a given load, losses will fall. This leads to a direct trade-off between cost of losses and cost of capital expenditure. It has been suggested that optimal average utilization rate on a distribution network that considers the cost of losses in its design could be as low as 30 per cent.
  • Joule losses in lines in each voltage level
  • Impedance losses
  • Losses caused by contact resistance.

Main Reasons for Technical Losses

1. Lengthy Distribution lines

In practically 11 KV and 415 volts lines, in rural areas are extended over long distances to feed loads scattered over large areas. Thus the primary and secondary distributions lines in rural areas are largely radial laid usually extend over long distances.

This results in high line resistance and therefore high I2R losses in the line.

  • Haphazard growths of sub-transmission and distribution system in to new areas.
  • Large scale rural electrification through long 11kV and LT lines.

2. Inadequate Size of Conductors of Distribution lines

The size of the conductors should be selected on the basis of KVA x KM capacity of standard conductor for a required voltage regulation, but rural loads are usually scattered and generally fed by radial feeders. The conductor size of these feeders should be adequate.

3. Installation of Distribution transformers away from load centers

Distribution Transformers are not located at Load center on the Secondary Distribution System.

In most of case Distribution Transformers are not located centrally with respect to consumers. Consequently, the farthest consumers obtain an extremity low voltage even though a good voltage levels maintained at the transformers secondary.

This again leads to higher line losses. (The reason for the line losses increasing as a result of decreased voltage at the consumers end therefore in order to reduce the voltage drop in the line to the farthest consumers, the distribution transformer should be located at the load center to keep voltage drop within permissible limits.)

4. Low Power Factor of Primary and secondary distribution system

In most LT distribution circuits normally the Power Factor ranges from 0.65 to 0.75. A low Power Factor contributes towards high distribution losses.

For a given load, if the Power Factor is low, the current drawn in high  And  the losses proportional to square of the current will be more. Thus, line losses owing to the poor PF can be reduced by improving the Power Factor.

This can be done by application of shunt capacitors.

  • Shunt capacitors can be connected either in secondary side (11 KV side) of the 33/11 KV power transformers or at various point of Distribution Line.
  • The optimum rating of capacitor banks for a distribution system is 2/3rd of the average KVAR requirement of that distribution system.
  • The vantage point is at 2/3rd the length of the main distributor from the transformer.
  • A more appropriate manner of improving this PF of the distribution system and thereby reduce the line losses is to connect capacitors across the terminals of the consumers having inductive loads.
  • By connecting the capacitors across individual loads, the line loss is reduced from 4 to 9% depending upon the extent of PF improvement.

5. Bad Workmanship

Bad Workmanship contributes significantly role towards increasing distribution losses.

Joints are a source of power loss. Therefore the number of joints should be kept to a minimum. Proper jointing techniques should be used to ensure firm connections.

Connections to the transformer bushing-stem, drop out fuse, isolator, and LT switch etc. should be periodically inspected and proper pressure maintained to avoid sparking and heating of contacts.

Replacement of deteriorated wires and services should also be made timely to avoid any cause of leaking and loss of power.

6. Feeder Phase Current and Load Balancing>

One of the easiest loss savings of the distribution system is balancing current along three-phase circuits.

Feeder phase balancing also tends to balance voltage drop among phases giving three-phase customers less voltage unbalance. Amperage magnitude at the substation doesn’t guarantee load is balanced throughout the feeder length.

Feeder phase unbalance may vary during the day and with different seasons. Feeders are usually considered “balanced” when phase current magnitudes are within 10.Similarly, balancing load among distribution feeders will also lower losses assuming similar conductor resistance. This may require installing additional switches between feeders to allow for appropriate load transfer.

Bifurcation of feeders according to Voltage regulation and Load.

7. Load Factor Effect on Losses

Power consumption of customer varies throughout the day and over seasons.

Residential customers generally draw their highest power demand in the evening hours. Same commercial customer load generally peak in the early afternoon. Because current level (hence, load) is the primary driver in distribution power losses, keeping power consumption more level throughout the day will lower peak power loss and overall energy losses.

Load variation is Called load factor and It varies from 0 to 1.

Load Factor = Average load in a specified time period / peak load during that time period.

For example, for 30 days month (720 hours) peak Load of the feeder is 10 MW. If the feeder supplied a total energy of 5,000 MWH, the load factor for that month is (5,000 MWh)/ (10MW x 720) =0.69.

Lower power and energy losses are reduced by raising the load factor, which, evens out feeder demand variation throughout the feeder.

The load factor has been increase by offering customers “time-of-use” rates. Companies use pricing power to influence consumers to shift electric-intensive activities during off-peak times (such as, electric water and space heating, air conditioning, irrigating, and pool filter pumping).

With financial incentives, some electric customers are also allowing utilities to interrupt large electric loads remotely through radio frequency or power line carrier during periods of peak use. Utilities can try to design in higher load factors by running the same feeders through residential and commercial areas.

8. Transformer Sizing and Selection

Distribution transformers use copper conductor windings to induce a magnetic field into a grain-oriented silicon steel core. Therefore, transformers have both load losses and no-load core losses.

Transformer copper losses vary with load based on the resistive power loss equation (P loss = I2R). For some utilities, economic transformer loading means loading distribution transformers to capacity-or slightly above capacity for a short time-in an effort to minimize capital costs and still maintain long transformer life.

However, since peak generation is usually the most expensive, total cost of ownership (TCO) studies should take into account the cost of peak transformer losses. Increasing distribution transformer capacity during peak by one size will often result in lower total peak power dissipation-more so if it is overloaded.

Transformer no-load excitation loss (iron loss) occurs from a changing magnetic field in the transformer core whenever it is energized. Core loss varies slightly with voltage but is essentially considered constant. Fixed iron loss depends on transformer core design and steel lamination molecular structure. Improved manufacturing of steel cores and introducing amorphous metals (such as metallic glass) have reduced core losses.

9. Balancing 3 phase loads

Balancing 3-phase loads periodically throughout a network can reduce losses significantly. It can be done relatively easily on overhead networks and consequently offers considerable scope for cost effective loss reduction, given suitable incentives.

10. Switching off transformers

One method of reducing fixed losses is to switch off transformers in periods of low demand. If two transformers of a certain size are required at a substation during peak periods, only one might be required during times of low demand so that the other transformer might be switched off in order to reduce fixed losses.

This will produce some offsetting increase in variable losses and might affect security and quality of supply as well as the operational condition of the transformer itself. However, these trade-offs will not be explored and optimized unless the cost of losses are taken into account.

11. Other Reasons for Technical Losses

  • Unequal load distribution among three phases in L.T system causing high neutral currents.
  • leaking and loss of power
  • Over loading of lines.
  • Abnormal operating conditions at which  power and distribution transformers are operated
  • Low voltages at consumer terminals causing higher drawl of currents by inductive loads.
  • Poor quality of equipment used in agricultural pumping in rural areas, cooler air-conditioners and industrial loads in urban areas.

About Author //


Jignesh Parmar

jiguparmar - Jignesh Parmar has completed his B.E(Electrical) from Gujarat University. He is member of Institution of Engineers (MIE),India. Membership No:M-1473586.He has more than 12 years experience in Transmission -Distribution-Electrical Energy theft detection-Electrical Maintenance-Electrical Projects (Planning-Designing-Technical Review-coordination -Execution). He is Presently associate with one of the leading business group as a Assistant Manager at Ahmedabad,India. He has published numbers of Technical Articles in "Electrical Mirror", "Electrical India", "Lighting India", "Industrial Electrix"(Australian Power Publications) Magazines. He is Freelancer Programmer of Advance Excel and design useful Excel base Electrical Programs as per IS, NEC, IEC,IEEE codes. He is Technical Blogger and Familiar with English, Hindi, Gujarati, French languages. He wants to Share his experience & Knowledge and help technical enthusiasts to find suitable solutions and updating themselves on various Engineering Topics.


  1. Alaina
    Nov 12, 2014

    This is very confusing especially to middle schools. I mean what the heck is shunt capacitors.

  2. Ahmed
    Oct 09, 2014

    what about the non-technical losses??

  3. akshay
    Aug 08, 2014

    respected jignesh ji,
    I want to know that what is duration between electricity generation till it reaches home ???
    ex generated from plant & home in Rajasthan
    please answer via email

  4. Yomi Biyi
    Apr 24, 2014

    I am given a topic to write a research proposal on analysis and reduction Losses on Nigeria 330KV can anyone help me on a new methodology to investigate power losses. Thanks.

  5. Gene Hawkridge
    Mar 05, 2014

    System or technical losses can be estimated by modelling the system. These can be checked against substation feeder measurements. When these losses appear to be excessive, check for “non-technical” losses. I encountered a situation some years ago in which the meter for one of the largest loads in a small community was not wired correctly, with the result that the measured energy use of the cusomer was a tiny fraction of actual use. Re-wiring that meter dropped system losses in half, and considerably improved the balance sheet of the small utility involved. It is unknown whether intentional theft was involved. Of course, meters must be locked securely. Modern data processing methods can be used to identify customer services with suspiciously low energy use.

  6. Ross Baldick
    Mar 01, 2014

    The technical losses quoted in this article seem rather high by North American standards. I recollect that EIA data suggests more like 3% of losses in the transmission system and 5% in the distribution system. Was the 22.5% technical loss figure specifically for, eg, India.

  7. farouk
    Feb 28, 2014

    nice article , i hope if you can give me the reactive losses “QL ” expressed by tap position of the OLTC , i read an article give Vx and Vm represent the loss equation
    gradient vectors, and Vxx, Vmm are the corresponding Hessian matrixes :
    Vm=(∂QL)/∂m=2m/x_cc * (m * V2 – V1 * cos(θ_12 ) )
    (∂^2 QL)/(∂Vk ∂V_i )=(2V_2^2)/x_cc

    V_mm=(∂^2 Q_L)/(∂V_k ∂V_i )=(2V_2^2)/x_cc
    V_mx=[(∂^2 Q_L)/∂m∂θ , (∂^2 Q_L)/∂m∂V]
    (∂^2 Q_L)/∂m∂θ=[-(2V_2 V_1)/x_cc sin (θ_12 ) 0……..0]
    (∂^2 Q_L)/∂m∂V=[-2 ??/x_cc (V_1 cos (θ_12+2mV_2 ) ) 0 ] … (!!!!!)
    Xcc is the short circuit reactance of the transformer between bus 1 and bus 2 .
    i hope some one corrected this equation (!!!!!)
    thanks you .

  8. Babar
    Jan 06, 2014

    I have built a 50 KW Microhydel Power project. The Total No of house holds is 106. These house holds are to be electrified from the project. I want to transmit the voltage by stepping it up to 415/11000 Volts through step up transformer of 62.5 KVA. There are two other step down Distribution transformers of 25 KVA. I want to transmit the step up voltage by using GNAT ACSR over head conductor of 25 mm^2 an and want to use Rabbit AC of 50mm^2. Now i want to calculate The entire area of transmission net work is nearly 5 KM and distribution area is about 13 Km. I want to calculate the transmission and distribution line losses. Plz help me thanks

  9. Electrocita
    Sep 07, 2013

    hello,,, I study electrical engineering and I can’t understand some terms and the difference between them!!..can I get help???

    • Babar
      Jan 08, 2014

      What terms and differents you do not understand. Plz write them so that it would be easy for me to answer you Thank you

      • Babar
        Jan 08, 2014

        ACSR Stands for Alluminium conductors Steel Reinforced. GNAT(GEENAT) is used for Commercial Name of the overhead Conductors.
        Sorry it is not Rabbit AC it is Rabbit AAC(All alluminium Conductors)
        Pleas please help me to calculate losses in transmission and distribution lines

        Thank you very much

        • Babar
          Jan 08, 2014

          Sorry once again the entire area of Transmission is 5 Km and Distribution area is 13 Km

  10. abhilash dash
    Aug 30, 2013

    Nice article……..
    Post another good article on transmission and distribution netwok to me plz…..

    • Babar
      Jan 09, 2014

      I have built a 50 KW Microhydel Power project for the community of a small village.The Total No of house holds is 106. These house holds are to be electrified from the project. I want to transmit the voltage by stepping it up to 415/11000 Volts through step up transformer of 62.5 KVA. There are two other step down Distribution transformers of 25 KVA. Total Distance for Transmission line is 4 Kilometer and for Distribution line, it is 12 Kilomenter.
      Plz help me in calculating of

      1- Size of Overhead conductor for Transmission and Distribution Line
      2- Losses in Transmission line
      3- Losses in Distribution line
      I shall be very thankful if some friends may help me

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