Fossil fuels and renewable energy

What are fossil fuels?

Much of the world’s energy is produced by burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas. These natural resources are formed from the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago. They are used to power everything from planes to gas cookers.

Burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide gas, which is damaging to the environment and is making the Earth warmer than it should be. Once fossil fuels are gone they cannot be replaced, so people are now using renewable sources of energy.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is a natural source of energy that will never run out. Sources such as wind, the Sun and water are renewable energy sources that can be used to create electricity.

There are different types of renewable energy:

  • Hydropower - moving water helps create electricity by turning turbines under the sea as the tide moves in and out, or by using water stored in a dam.
  • Solar energy - solar panels collect energy from the Sun to create electricity.
  • Wind energy - wind turns turbines to create electricity.
  • Geothermal energy - volcanic activity can be used for heating water and the steam produced can be used to power generators and create electricity.

These sources of energy are much cleaner to use than fossil fuels because they do not produce harmful gases that cause pollution and climate change.

This is a coal power station in the UK. Coal is a fossil fuel which is often used for providing heat.

This is a coal power station in the UK. Coal is a fossil fuel which is often used for providing heat.

1 of 6

Where next?

Natural resources
Sustainability and plastics
Bitesize Primary KS2
Explore the world with Sue Venir
collection

Sustainability, there's more to learn...

This guide
Wind farm and solar panel

Fossil fuels and renewable energy