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This paper explores the natural balancing mechanisms of the three-level neutral-point-clamped (NPC) multilevel inverter. An equivalent circuit of the three-level NPC inverter is derived that facilitates an understanding of the balancing mechanisms. This is followed by a detailed analysis of the balancing mechanisms. The theory is applied to a three-level NPC inverter under vector control. It is shown that this inverter possesses natural balancing mechanisms in which the load impedance and spectra of the switching functions play an important role. Finally, it is illustrated how the natural balancing can be enhanced by using a passive balancing circuit which provides a low impedance at the sampling frequency.