Energy Basics: How It Works and Where It Comes From Boot Camps

Energy Basics: How It Works and Where It Comes From

Energy impacts almost every facet of our lives in ways we rarely stop and think about. Given the complexity of our energy system and the many aspects involved in getting to a 100% clean energy future, having a grasp of the basics can make you a more informed, effective energy consumer and agent of change within your community. While the video above gives an overview of these energy basics, the rest of this section breaks them down further.

Electricity 101

Energy: The ability to produce charge or do work. It may exist in potential, kinetic, thermal, electrical, chemical, nuclear, or other various forms.

Electricity: A secondary source of energy that requires a primary source (like chemical energy) in order to be produced.

The Electrical Grid

The grid is a complex system that transmits power generated at a variety of locations and delivers it to users.1


Confused about how the power lines buzzing above you connect you to distant power-generating sources? Discover the details of the process of generation, transmission, and consumption in this video.

New technologies like solar and wind provide alternative methods of generating energy, and the grid needs to be updated so that electric utilities can maximize the efficiency of electricity delivery while integrating renewables. Learn how smart grid developments, such as smart metering, can help us scale more quickly towards 100% clean energy.

Energy Efficiency

What’s the cheapest and cleanest form of energy? Energy that’s not used. Cutting back on your energy consumption lowers energy bills while reducing carbon emissions. The video below provides a good intro to the concept of energy efficiency.

Understanding the Role of Energy Efficiency

Podcast: Energy Efficiency and Reducing CO2 emissions

Learn from the Energy Gang how energy efficiency plays a key role in our transition to a clean energy future.


Renewable vs Clean Energy

The terms “renewable energy” and “clean energy” can mean different things to different people, cities, and states. It helps to understand the variety of energy sources different people include when using these terms. Check out this video for further clarification.

Climate Change

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our generation. The scientific community agrees, and now 76% of Americans report that they’re concerned, cautious, or alarmed about the issue.2 Irreversible changes to the planet are already underway, and inaction is a deliberate choice that is exacerbating the climate crisis. We already have the solutions we need; a 100% clean energy future is doable, but it is going to take all of us getting engaged.

Debunking the Myth that Climate Change is a Hoax

Individual Impact

Collectively, individuals contribute about a third of total U.S. carbon emissions with home energy use and personal vehicles alone—not even including the impact of the goods and services we buy.3 The good news is that now, with the arrival of technologies like solar and electric vehicles, individuals like us can play a significant role in accelerating the transition to clean energy in our homes and communities. You can use your voice, your vote, and your personal behaviors and choices to make a real impact. And when you implement solutions in your own life, you become a positive example for your friends and family. You can use The Nature Conservancy’s carbon calculator to determine the carbon footprint of your household and look for high-impact opportunities to reduce it.

Tool: Carbon Footprint Calculator

What’s your carbon footprint? Use this interactive calculator from The Nature Conservancy to find out.

Carbon FootPrint Calculator GIF


Click here to see the tool

Deeper Dive

Want an even better foundation of energy basics? Check out the videos below to learn more about our country’s potential to scale existing clean energy solutions, how to interpret the latest IPCC report on climate change, and more.


“We’re not moving fast enough, but the technologies we have today are profitable, could scale, and could actually meet [our energy] needs.”

Bonus Round