The difference between energy and electricity is an important distinction to make.
Energy and electricity impact society and industries in different key ways.
This guide briefly explains that difference, and impact.
Difference Between Energy & Electricity
Energy is a broad term that describes the use of different energy sources for different applications like electricity, fuel and other energy based purposes.
Electricity, on the other hand, is a specific form of directly usable energy.
What Is Energy?
The phrase energy can be used in a number of ways, and has several different applications.
Firstly, energy can be split into primary and secondary energy sources.
Primary energy sources are usually the raw or natural form of energy like:
- coal, crude oil, raw natural gas as fossil fuels
- uranium (for nuclear energy)
- and renewable energy sources like sunlight (for solar), wind (for wind energy), water (for hydro energy), and so on.
Secondary energy sources are the energy sources that we as humans can use directly or use more conveniently. For example, the above primary energy sources can be refined and turned into a secondary energy source like electricity (in the case of coal for example), or converted directly into electricity (in the case of sunlight via a solar panel and converter).
Secondly, we use energy is several key sectors in society – for electricity in the power sector (which can be used in other industries like the residential, commercial and industrial sectors), for heating and cooling, and for fuel in the transport sector.
Right now, globally, we use mainly:
- fossil fuels and renewables for electricity
- petrol and diesel-fuelled cars for transport (but hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars are increasing in numbers)
- and for heating, oil and natural gas boilers in buildings (but electrification and district heating may feature in the future more prominently)
Another way to describe energy might be:
- “Energy” is a broad term that includes sources such as petrol, diesel, gas and renewables, among other things.
What Is Electricity?
The power/electricity sector is a sector by itself – that’s how important electricity is to society.
Electricity is a form of directly usable energy (as opposed to a raw primary form of energy).
It comes from several different types of energy sources, such as fossil fuels, uranium, and renewable energy sources.
Different energy sources produce electricity in different ways.
For example, coal power plants might use steam to spin a turbine and create electricity.
Whereas, solar panels might turn sunlight/photons into DC energy, before DC energy is run through an inverter and turned into AC energy and used in the grid or in households.
Another way to describe electricity might be:
- “Electricity” is a specific form of energy that can be produced from many different sources.