How Does Electricity Work?

by Tyler Castle

3.5 min read

Humans have a close relationship with electricity, to the point where we can’t imagine life without it. In many cases, electricity is taken for granted until the power goes out in our homes or businesses. One way we can better appreciate the power of electricity is to learn more about it. So, how does electricity work?

What is Electricity Made Of?

Did you know electricity is made up of atoms? To understand electricity, we need to first understand how atoms and electrons behave. Every atom has a nucleus that’s made up of protons and neutrons. Electrons are charged particles that revolve around the nucleus in shells. Protons have a positive charge and electrons have a negative charge, and they attract each other. This attraction both keeps the charges equal and keeps the atom balanced. So, the positive charge of the proton is equal to the negative charge of the electrons.

Where Does Electricity Come From?

Electrons generally have a strong attraction to protons. However, electrons located in the outermost shell don’t have as strong an attraction to protons as do the electrons in the inner shells.

The electrons with the weaker attraction are pushed outside the atom, which in turn, causes them to shift from one atom to another. It’s the shifting of these electrons that creates electricity.

Electricity doesn’t just “exist” in nature. It must be “produced” or generated from other forms of energy. Moreover, electricity itself is neither renewable (“green”) nor non-renewable (“brown”). What makes electricity “green” or “brown” is the form of energy that produced it.

What Sources are Used to Generate Electricity?

In the U.S., most of our electricity is generated from “brown” sources – once these sources are gone, they can’t be easily replaced. Let’s explore these brown sources. More than 60 percent of our electricity today is made from fossil fuels, primarily natural gas and coal. (Yes! Natural gas is both a type of energy we use in our homes AND a source from which electricity is produced.)

The second largest source for producing electricity is nuclear, accounting for about 20 percent of the total energy mix. Nuclear Energy is considered to be “Sustainable”. That is, the energy produced by nuclear power plants is renewable, but the fuel used and required, Uranium, is not. Uranium is a very common metal in the world, but the required isotope is comparatively rare to find, making it a non-renewable fuel for the renewable energy it produces.

The rest of our electricity (17%) is produced from “green” (or renewable) sources. These sources are naturally replenishing and readily available, but they are limited in the amount of energy they can produce in a set time period. Most of our green electricity is produced by hydroelectric plants (water power) and wind farms. Each of these sources accounts for about 7% of all electricity in the U.S. It’s likely you’ve even seen a wind farm as wind power is the fastest-growing of all green energy sources. Other renewable sources include solar (2%), biomass (1%), and geothermal (0.5%).

Electricity makes our future BRIGHT!

From the late 1800’s through today, most of our energy has come from non-renewable fossil fuels – natural gas, coal, and petroleum. Until the 1990s, hydropower and wood were the most common renewable energy sources. Since then, usage of other renewable sources, such as wind, geothermal and solar energy has increased steadily. As technologies improve, renewable energy sources will become a larger part of the electricity generation mix. Renewable energy can play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and helping to diversify electricity generation sources.

Whether it’s turning the lights on, doing the laundry, or keeping the food in the refrigerator cool, electricity is a bigger part of our day than we may realize. So it’s beneficial to know how it works!

For more information on Santanna’s energy offers or to enroll in a plan, call 630-552-6881 or go online to:

About Santanna Energy Services
Santanna Energy Services located in Austin, TX and Bolingbrook IL, is a Natural Gas and Electricity Provider for Residential, Commercial, Business and more. The company was founded in 1988 and has been in business for 32 years and growing!

Tyler Castle

Tyler is an experienced energy professional, having worked for Santanna Energy Services, for the past four years. He is passionate about renewable energy and believes that diversifying the energy grid is the key to a sustainable future. Tyler is dedicated to supplying consumers with the best possible energy solutions and works diligently to make sure that Santanna can deliver the highest quality service.

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