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Because of its physical properties, electrical power cannot be accumulated and stored in significant quantities. The generation, transmission, distribution and consumption of electrical power generally takes place simultaneously. As a result, operations companies in this sector, known in many countries as Transmission System Operators (TSOs) have to, for example, continually balance the generation of electrical power with its distribution, based upon the demand from consumers.
Electricity is generated by means of the transformation of other forms of energy, such as mechanical, chemical or heat, by specialized technology.
For example, a thermal power plant uses the energy contained within organic fuels such as coal, inflammable slate, oil and its refined derivatives and natural gas to produce electrical energy. The key components of a power station are the boilers, steam turbine and generators. The boiler system is one of the most important components of the overall system, where water vapour under pressure is produced and steam is transported to steam turbines – the key drivers in a power generator plant. Steam turbines turn the generators which in turn make electricity.
The principal unit used to measure the production and usage of electrical power is the kilowatt-hour (and its familiar multiples). More detailed measurements involve such parameters as voltage, frequency and the number of phases (for alternating current), along with nominal and maximum electrical current. For example, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) also known as UCTE, regards AC frequency as the most important of these, as its reduction or increase outside of acceptable norms could lead to the failure of elements of the network or even the collapse of the whole unified grid.
In recent years, the problems associated with electricity generation caused by the reduction of non-renewable fossil fuel resources, as well as the non-homogeneous geographical locations of such resources, had led to the need to develop renewable resources. These include wind-powered turbines, solar cells and small local gas-powered generators.
Today the market for electricity in Central and Eastern Europe finds itself in the final stages of liberalization as a result of proactive policies by many of the Central and Eastern European countries to develop organized markets where electricity is traded as a commodity. Most Eastern European countries have already had spot markets for trading in electricity which allow liquidity to be raised while allowing the generation and usage of electrical power to be balanced more effectively.