Types of Energy

There are two types of energy:

  • potential (or stored energy)
  • kinetic (or energy in motion)

Kinetic Energy is energy in motion. Moving water and wind are examples of kinetic energy. Electricity is kinetic energy because even though you can't see it happen, electricity involves electrons moving in a conductor.

Potential Energy is stored (or latent). Energy can be stored in many ways: a gallon of gasoline or a barrel of oil contains stored energy; a lake in the mountains contains "stored" energy because if it were released, it would do a lot of "work." When we talk about oil, coal, wood, or gas, we are talking about "stored" energy.

Energy can be changed from one type to another. An example is a car being driven up a hill, during which time it is demonstrating kinetic energy or energy in motion. When it sits on the top of the hill it has potential, or stored energy. If it is then allowed to roll back down the hill the potential energy changes again into kinetic energy. A law of physics says that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but it can change back and forth between forms.


Mechanical Energy is the energy of motion that does the work like the wind turns a windmill.


Heat Energy where motion or
rise in temperature is caused by
heat like a fire in your fireplace.


Chemical Energy is the chemical
reaction causing changes; food and fuel
both store chemical energy.


Electrical Energy is when motion, light or heat
is produced by an electrical current like the
electric coils on your stove.


Gravitational Energy where motion, like water going over a dam, is caused by gravity's pull.