Electricity and the Environment

Some power stations make electricity by burning "fossil fuels" such as coal, gas, or oil. This heats up water which is then turned into steam. This steam drives large electricity generators. Burning fossil fuels creates different types of pollution, some of which add to the problem known as global warming. (Global warming describes the increase in the average temperature of the world.). Another problem with fossil fuels is that supplies are limited and they are steadily running out and cannot be replaced once they are used.

Home made electricity

Some people have started producing electricity at home, using solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power and even heat from digging deep into the ground.

Future sources of electricity

It is likely that in the future, more of our electricity will be produced by using non-polluting, renewable sources such as solar power and wind power. This will lead to a cleaner environment.

Clean electricity

There is no perfectly clean way of generating electricity. However, there are many ways to make energy that is less polluting, and do not significantly contribute to global warming. These types of energy are called renewable, because they will never run out. For example:

Wave power

uses the energy of the waves to turn turbines (rotating machines) that make electricity.


is generated from running water. Dams are built across a lake or river in a valley to trap water. The water flows through tunnels and turns the turbines which make electricity. These can be very large scale power stations or very small scale 'home' generators.

Geothermal power

uses the heat that comes from deep rocks under the surface of the Earth.

Wind energy

is used to turn wind turbines and make electricity. There are many types of windmill used to generate electricity. To increase the use of wind energy many people create 'wind farms' where lots of wind turbines are installed next to each other.

Tidal energy

comes from the movement of water in the sea by the tides. These tides happen twice a day.


uses the energy from plants and waste materials to make electricity. This type of fuel still produces carbon dioxide (one of the sources of global warming) but the planting of new trees helps to balances this.

Solar panels

Solar panels are used to convert the Sun's energy into electricity.

Nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is not a renewable source of energy, however it does not significantly add to the problem of global warming. Nuclear fuel is made from radioactive uranium ore which occurs naturally in the ground.

However, many people do not like using nuclear energy as the uranium is very dangerous.

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