Learn about renewable energy, non-renewable energy and how to conserve energy.
The most common way of producing electricity is by using non-renewable fossil fuels. There are three main forms of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. These fuels were formed millions of years ago, long before the dinosaurs.
The remains of plants and animals settled to the bottom of lakes and oceans and were covered by sand and mud. Over millions of years, the earth's pressure and heat turned the layers of earth into a hard rock-like substance called coal, a thick liquid called petroleum, or an invisible substance called natural gas.
To begin the process of converting fossil fuels into electricity these substances need to be taken out of the ground. Coal mines bring the coal up from underground, while massive drills collect the oil and gas. Coal produces around 64% of the world's electricity, with the remainder coming from water, gas, nuclear and green sources. Most developed countries rely heavily on coal for power.
Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resources (which means they will eventually run out). Another non-renewable energy source is the element uranium, whose atoms we split (through a process called nuclear fission) to create heat and ultimately electricity.
Renewable energy is energy from sources that we can use over and over again. Renewable energy sources include solar energy (from the sun), hydropower (from water), wind power (from the wind), geothermal energy (created by underground steam) and biomass energy (eg. landfill gases at rubbish tips).
Our society depends on electricity. Using it more efficiently will mean that the impact on our natural resources can be reduced. More than 90% of Australia's electricity comes from coal, the other 10% from hydroelectric generation (from water). Because coal produces greenhouse gases and will eventually run out, everyone is encouraged to conserve the energy they use.
By conserving energy, we reduce the need for electricity generated by coal and help to minimise what is known as the "greenhouse effect". There are many ways to conserve electricity. We can turn off lights, heaters and appliances like televisions when we are not using them. Sometimes an extra jumper is better than an extra heater.
If you conserve and recycle things you will be helping to conserve energy. By being sensible with energy around your home and school you can help your parents save money as well as help the environment.