Transmission and Distribution in FE Electrical Exam

Welcome to our comprehensive study guide on transmission and distribution in FE Electrical Exam. This dedicated guide is based on the guidelines and topics provided by the NCEES® examination criteria and guidelines.

By aligning with the NCEES® examination criteria, we ensure you receive the most relevant and up-to-date information to prepare for the exam successfully.

Transmission and distribution are fundamental components of the electrical supply and power systems, and a solid understanding of these concepts is essential for any electrical engineer.

This detailed guide will cover various topics, including power transmission, distribution, transformers, and more. Before starting, we recommend you check out the support study materials attached to the guide for a more holistic and clear view of each topic.

 Let’s dive in and explore the dynamics and concepts of transmission and distribution in the FE Electrical exam.

Overview of Transmission and Distribution Systems

Overview of Transmission and Distribution Systems

The purpose of transmission systems and distribution systems in power is to ensure the safe and efficient transfer of electrical power to consumers, including domestic, industrial, and corporate users. Let’s have a look at some crucial topics of transmission and distribution in FE Electrical exam.

Power Transmission

Power transmission refers to the movement of electricity at high voltages from power plants to substations over long distances. The purpose of the transmission system is to minimize energy losses and efficiently deliver electricity to the distribution network.

Components of Power Transmission

  • Power Plants – Generators convert various energy sources (such as coal, natural gas, hydro, or wind) into electrical energy.
  • Transformers – Step-up transformers increase the voltage of electricity generated at power plants to reduce transmission losses.
  • Transmission Lines – These conductive cables carry high-voltage electricity over long distances. They are usually made of aluminum or steel reinforced with aluminum.
  • Insulators – They are non-conductive materials, typically made of ceramics or composite polymers, which support and insulate transmission lines from structures and the ground.
  • Transmission Towers – Tall structures made of steel or concrete that support and suspend transmission lines at appropriate heights and distances.
  • Substations – These facilities receive high-voltage electricity from transmission lines and perform voltage transformations, switching, and protection functions. They are equipped with transformers to step down the voltage for further distribution.
  • Circuit Breakers – These devices protect the transmission infrastructure by interrupting the flow of electricity in the event of faults or overloads, preventing damage to equipment and ensuring safety.

Power Distribution

Power distribution involves the delivery of electricity from substations to consumers, including residential, commercial, and industrial users. The distribution objective is to provide reliable electricity at lower voltages suitable for consumption.

Components of Power Distribution

  • Substations – They receive high-voltage electricity from the transmission network and step it down to appropriate voltage levels for distribution.
  • Distribution Lines – Medium-voltage power lines that transport electricity from substations to various locations within a specific service area.
  • Distribution Transformers – These devices further reduce the voltage from the distribution lines to levels suitable for consumer use, typically 120/240 volts for residential and small commercial applications.
  • Distribution Poles – Wooden or metal poles that support distribution lines, transformers, and other equipment.
  • Service Connections – The final electrical connections that supply power to individual buildings and structures.
  • Metering Equipment – Meters measure the amount of electricity customers consume for billing purposes.
  • Distribution Panels – Located within buildings, distribution panels receive power from the service connections and distribute it to various circuits within the premises, ensuring safe and controlled electrical distribution.

By utilizing these components, the power transmission and distribution infrastructure efficiently and reliably delivers electricity from power plants to end consumers, meeting their diverse energy needs.

Related Reading

Transmission Systems

Transmission lines and their characteristics are the factors that you must be critical for a safe and efficient power transmission. To start with the basics of Transmission and Distribution in the FE Electrical Exam, let’s discuss the critical characteristics and parameters of High-Voltage Transmission Lines. 

Table (1.1) highlights the key factors associated with the composition and impact of the following parameters of transmission lines.

  • Transmission line material
  • Resistance in the transmission line
  • Length of the transmission line (directly correlated with efficiency, conductivity, and resistivity).
Voltage LevelHigh voltage (typically ranging from 69 kV to 765 kV)
ConductorsUsually made of aluminum or steel-reinforced aluminum for improved power delivery efficiency
InsulatorsCeramic or composite polymer materials for the safety of life and property
Line ConfigurationSingle-circuit or double-circuit configurations
Tower TypesSuspension towers, tension towers, and dead-end towers
Transmission LossesResistive losses due to conductor resistance and dielectric losses due to insulator properties
Power Transfer CapacityDepends on the conductor size, temperature, and line length
Sag and TensionLines sag due to thermal expansion and mechanical loading, and tension is maintained to ensure proper sag
Right-of-Way RequirementsBroad clearance areas to avoid interference and ensure safety
Lightning ProtectionGround wires or shielding to protect against lightning strikes
Table (1.1)

Transmission Line Parameters and Calculations

Transmission Line Parameters and Calculations

To calculate different parameters of transmission lines like admittance and impedance, the following circuit components and qualities play a vital role.

  • Resistance (R): Represents the line’s resistance to current flow.
  • Inductance (L): Represents the line’s ability to store energy in its magnetic field.
  • Capacitance (C): Represents the line’s ability to store energy in its electric field.
  • Conductance (G): Represents the line’s leakage current or losses.

If you are looking for a one-stop shop resource to make your FE Electrical exam study, take a look at our FE Electrical Exam Prep resource.

We have helped thousands of FE exam students pass their exam with our proven, on-demand content, and live-training.

Impedance and Admittance in Transmission Lines

In transmission line calculations, admittance and impedance play crucial roles. Let’s look at both terms and their importance:


Admittance (Y) represents the ease with which electric current can flow through a transmission line. It is the reciprocal of impedance (Z). Mathematically, admittance is denoted as Y and is measured in Siemens (S). The formula for admittance is:

Y = G + jωC

As discussed earlier,

  • G represents conductance and accounts for the line’s leakage current or losses.
  • C represents capacitance and captures the line’s ability to store energy in its electric field.
  • jω is the complex operator, where ω is the angular frequency.

Learn how to calculate Admittance.

Importance of Admittance
  • Admittance helps quantify the current-carrying capacity of transmission lines.
  • It plays a vital role in analyzing the behavior of transmission networks, including voltage drops, power flows, and system stability.
  • Admittance facilitates calculating the network’s current distribution, voltage regulation, and reactive power flow.

It is crucial for performing load flow analysis, fault analysis, and stability studies in power systems.


Impedance (Z) refers to the overall opposition to the flow of electric current in a transmission line. It combines both resistance and reactance. Impedance is a complex quantity and is measured in ohms (Ω). The formula for impedance is:

Z = R + jωL

As discussed earlier,

  • R represents resistance, which represents the line’s resistance to current flow.
  • L represents inductance, the line’s ability to store energy in its magnetic field.
  • jω is the complex operator, where ω is the angular frequency.

Learn how to calculate Impedance.

Importance of Impedance
  • Impedance determines the voltage drop and power loss in transmission lines due to resistive and inductive effects.
  • It is essential for analyzing voltage regulation, fault currents, and system stability.
  • Impedance helps calculate power systems’ fault levels, short circuit currents, and fault impedances.
  • It is crucial for determining the characteristic impedance of transmission lines, matching impedance for optimal power transfer, and ensuring efficient power transmission.

Step-by-Step Calculations for Transmission Lines

Understanding how to perform critical calculations related to transmission lines is essential for the FE Electrical Exam and a valuable skill for future electrical engineers. Let’s delve into three crucial calculations: voltage drop, power loss, and short circuit current.

1. Voltage Drop Calculations

Voltage drop refers to the decrease in voltage along a transmission line due to its resistance. Here’s a simplified approach:

  • Formula: ΔV = I * R * L (Voltage drop (ΔV) equals current (I) multiplied by resistance (R) and length (L) of the line)
  • Example: A 10-mile-long transmission line carries a current of 100 A. The line resistance is 0.1 Ω/mile. What is the voltage drop?
    • ΔV = 100 A * 0.1 Ω/mile * 10 miles = 100 V

2. Power Loss Calculations

Power loss in transmission lines is another crucial factor. A simplified formula considers only resistance:

  • Formula: P_loss = I^2 * R (Power loss (P_loss) equals current squared (I^2) multiplied by resistance (R))
  • Example: Calculate the power loss using the values from the voltage drop example.
    • P_loss = (100 A)^2 * 0.1 Ω = 1000 W (1 kW)

3. Short Circuit Current Calculations

Short circuit current refers to the maximum current that can flow during a fault in the transmission line. Calculating it requires knowledge of complex circuit analysis, but a simplified understanding can be helpful. Short circuit current is generally much higher than standard operating currents.

Important Note:

These calculations provide a basic understanding. Real-world scenarios involve more complex factors like line reactance and capacitance, typically covered in detail in dedicated FE exam preparation materials.

Commonly Used Transmission Line Models and Their Characteristics

Transmission Line Models and Their Characteristics

Source: Circuit Globe

The different transmission lines are segmented based on their characteristics and ability to deliver electricity up to a particular range. Look at the table (1.2) below for further details.

Short Line ModelSuitable for lines up to 250 miles in length. Neglects capacitance and assumes uniform inductance and resistance.
Medium Line ModelSuitable for lines up to 250 miles to 600 miles. Includes capacitance and accounts for variations in inductance.
Long Line ModelSuitable for lines greater than 600 miles. Incorporates shunt capacitance, distributed parameters, and wave propagation.
Table (1.2)

The transmission lines in each model have different set standards for energy dissipation, admittance, and impedance.

Related Reading

Power Flow Analysis in Transmission Systems

Power flow analysis determines the steady-state behavior of a power transmission network. It involves calculating the voltages, currents, and power flows within the network. Key concepts used in transmission analysis include.

Power Factor (PF) – It represents the ratio of real power (P) to apparent power (S) and indicates the efficiency of power transfer.

PF = P / S

Reactive Power (Q) – It represents the power oscillations between the generator and the load caused by inductive or capacitive elements.

Q = √(S² – P²)

Apparent Power (S) – It represents the total power flowing through a circuit, combining real and reactive power.

S = √(P² + Q²)

For instance, for transmission lines, you are given:

  • Real Power (P) = 100 MW
  • Power Factor (PF) = 0.8 lagging

To calculate Apparent Power:

S = P / PF

S = 100 MW / 0.8 = 125 MVA

To calculate Reactive Power:

Q = √(S² – P²)

Q = √((125 MVA)² – (100 MW)²)

Q ≈ 75 Mvar (reactive power is positive for lagging power factor)

*MVAR means megavolt ampere of reactive power.

Learn more about Power Factor Calculations in detail.

Distribution Systems

Before starting the distribution section, let’s revise a notable fact from the transmission system as we have discussed earlier (in the transmission components system). Step-up transformers are used in transmission systems to ensure that required high power can effectively deliver to large distances away from power generation plants. 

But distribution systems use step-down transformers as the appliances and equipment cannot be operated on such high voltages. Therefore, low-voltage distribution networks are essential for power distribution systems that deliver electricity from distribution substations to end consumers. 

These networks operate at lower voltage levels suitable for residential, commercial, and small-scale industrial applications. They are vital in ensuring a reliable and safe power supply to various loads within a specific service area.

Let’s have a look at different types of distribution transformers.

Common Distribution Transformers

  • Purpose – Step down the voltage from the medium-voltage distribution lines to levels appropriate for consumer use.
  • Voltage Levels – Typically step down from 11 kV or 33 kV to 415 V or 240 V.
  • Use Cases – Widely employed for residential, commercial, and small industrial applications, supplying power to lighting, appliances, and equipment.

Pole-Mounted Transformers

  • Purpose – Provide localized distribution by stepping down voltage near the consumer premises.
  • Voltage Levels – Usually step down from the distribution line voltage to 240 V or 120 V.
  • Use Cases – Used in residential areas where power supply is distributed from overhead lines to individual buildings.

Pad-Mounted Transformers

  • Purpose – Step down the voltage for distribution while ensuring protection and compact installation.
  • Voltage Levels – Typically step down from the distribution line voltage to 240 V or 120 V.
  • Use Cases – These transformers are installed in protective enclosures in residential areas or underground distribution systems for easy maintenance and reduced visual impact.

Learn more about different types of transformers and discover how step-up and step-down transformers work.

Related Reading

Power Quality and Reliability in Distribution Systems

Ensuring power quality and reliability requires adequate infrastructure, regular maintenance, monitoring systems, and effective coordination among distribution utilities, regulators, and consumers.

It involves implementing measures to mitigate voltage variations, harmonics, and interruptions while investing in innovative grid technologies and advanced distribution automation systems.

Let’s discuss both critical factors in detail.

Power Quality

Power quality refers to the characteristics of electrical power in terms of voltage, frequency, harmonics, and interruptions. Power factor correction ensures improved power quality in transmission and distribution systems.

Ensuring efficient and reliable power quality helps:

  • Ensure the efficient operation of electrical equipment and appliances, minimizing the risk of damage or malfunctions.
  • Maintain the stability and performance of sensitive devices like computers, medical equipment, and industrial machinery.
  • Improve system efficiency by minimizing energy losses, reducing electricity bills, and enhancing equipment lifespan.
  • Enhance customer satisfaction by providing a reliable and consistent power supply without voltage sags, surges, or harmonics.

Read our detailed study guide on surge protection to discover the basics of power surges, the causes and effects of surges, the various types of surge protection devices, and best practices for surge protection in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. 

Whether you want to protect your electronic devices or learn how surge protection works, this guide provides essential knowledge to help you make informed decisions about surge protection measures.


In distribution systems, reliability refers to providing consumers with a continuous and uninterrupted power supply.

Ensuring reliability is necessary as it:

  • Supports critical services such as healthcare facilities, emergency services, and data centers that require uninterrupted power.
  • Minimizes downtime and productivity losses in commercial and industrial sectors, ensuring smooth operations and preventing financial losses.
  • Improves the quality of life for residential consumers, providing reliable power for lighting, heating, cooling, and essential appliances.
  • Enhances an area’s overall economic growth and development by attracting businesses and promoting industrial activities.

Learn our detailed study guide on Power Systems Reliability that explores the crucial role of power reliability in electrical systems. It delves into the significance of reliable power supply, the impact of power outages on businesses and consumers, and the key factors contributing to system reliability.

Additionally, the blog highlights strategies for enhancing power system reliability, including redundancy measures, grid resilience, and advanced monitoring and control technologies.

Power Distribution Equipment

Power Distribution Equipment

Below are some crucial components vital to power distribution that you must prepare for Transmission and Distribution in the FE Electrical Exam.

Switchgear for Power Distribution

Switchgear is a collection of electrical devices that control, protect, and isolate electrical circuits in power distribution systems.

Switchgear involves circuit breaker operations, which employ mathematical principles such as fault analysis and circuit analysis to ensure proper interruption during faults.

Protective Devices for Power Distribution

Protective devices, such as overcurrent relays, fuses, and ground fault detectors, safeguard distribution systems and connected equipment.

Protective devices use mathematical approaches to calculate fault current levels, set appropriate trip curves, and coordinate with other surge protection and grounding devices to achieve selective fault clearing.

Distribution Substations for Power Distribution

Distribution substations receive high-voltage power from transmission lines and use step-down transformers to reduce voltage for distribution to consumers.

Distribution substations involved calculations to step down voltages, considering parameters like primary and secondary voltages, turn ratio, and impedance.

Reclosers for Power Distribution

Reclosers are automatic circuit breakers that detect faults in distribution lines and attempt to restore power by automatically re-closing the circuit.

Reclosers employ fault current calculations to ensure the reliability of power systems.

Sectionalizers for Power Distribution

Sectionalizers are devices that sectionalize distribution lines and isolate faulty sections during faults or maintenance.

Sectionalizers utilize algorithms based on current measurements to accurately determine the fault location and isolate the affected section.

Learn more about how to use a per-unit system in fault analysis.

Voltage Regulators for Power Distribution

Voltage regulators are automatic devices that adjust and regulate the voltage level to maintain it within acceptable limits.

Voltage regulators employ control systems analysis to monitor voltage levels continuously, compare them to setpoints, and adjust tap positions on transformers or reactive power injections to maintain the desired voltage.

Capacitors for Power Distribution

Capacitors installed in distribution systems improve power factor and voltage stability.

Capacitors utilize power factor correction formulas and reactive power calculations to determine the required capacitance value and location for achieving the desired power factor improvement and voltage regulation.

Related Reading

Distribution System Protection

In electrical power distribution, a robust defense mechanism of Distribution System Protection that ensures the reliability and safety of the grid. This intricate system relies on various devices, coordination schemes, and grounding techniques to detect faults, isolate them, and prevent damage to equipment and personnel.

Foundation of Distribution System Protection

At the forefront of this protection lies overcurrent devices, such as fuses and circuit breakers. These devices act as the first line of defense by detecting excessive currents. When an overcurrent condition occurs, they swiftly interrupt the circuit, isolating the fault and preventing further harm.

Coordination in Distribution Systems

However, the actual effectiveness of this system lies in coordination. Overcurrent devices must be carefully coordinated to ensure selective operation, minimizing the impact on the power system.

Through precise time-current characteristics, each device is set to operate in a specific order. The device closest to the fault acts swiftly, while devices farther away operate selectively, reducing disruptions to the system.

Fault Detection in Distributed Systems

Detecting and isolating faults is a critical aspect of Distribution System Protection. Protective relays play a pivotal role in this process. These devices monitor electrical quantities such as voltage, current, and power. By analyzing these parameters, protective relays can identify abnormal conditions associated with faults. 

Once a fault is detected, protective relays send signals to circuit breakers or other protective devices, isolating the faulted section and preventing its spread.

To facilitate fault detection and clearance, grounding systems are employed. Grounding provides a low-impedance path for fault currents, ensuring quick fault detection.

Different grounding techniques, such as solid, low-resistance, and high-resistance, are utilized based on specific requirements. These techniques help limit fault currents, protect equipment, and ensure personnel safety.

Learn more about Grounding Resistance Testing Methods and discover how to implement the Equally-spaced 4-pin Method, Unequally spaced 4-pin Method, and Driven Rod Method for ground testing.

Related Reading


Transmission and distribution in FE electrical exam is an important topic as per the NCEES® FE exam guidelines. These crucial topics related to the electrical and power industry are vital for the career of future electrical engineers, as understanding these concepts is essential for designing, operating, and maintaining efficient power systems. 

It is recommended to rely on trusted FE exam preparation platforms like Study for FE to prepare for the FE Electrical Exam. We offer specialized FE Electrical exam preparation course designed by PE-licensed professional. With comprehensive study materials and expert guidance, Study for FE equips aspiring engineers with the knowledge and skills to excel in transmission and distribution.

By choosing Study for FE, you can access tailored exam preparation courses, allowing you to deepen your understanding of essential exam concepts. The platform’s courses provide interactive lessons, practice exams, and real-world examples, ensuring thorough preparation for the exam. 

With Study for FE’s specialized guidance, aspiring engineers can confidently tackle transmission and distribution-related questions, setting a solid foundation for their careers in the electrical power industry.

Don’t miss the opportunity to excel in your FE electrical exam preparation. Choose Study for FE to gain the knowledge, confidence, and competitive edge needed to succeed as an electrical engineer.


Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.