Centralised generation is a major feature of modern electricity supply systems. Electricity is generally produced by spinning or turning a wire or disk of conductor (like copper) between the poles of a magnet. Typically in large scale generation systems spinning is created by steam. This steam is created by burning coal, gas or through nuclear fission. Increasingly this is being created by harnessing wind and wave technology.
In the south west of WA, we have four power stations owned by Synergy. Two, Collie and Muja are coal fired and produce about 50 per cent of the electricity we use, the remaining is made of gas fuelled power stations, wind turbines and household solar.
Nuclear power stations common in Europe and some parts of Asia and the US use nuclear fission to produce steam. Wind turbines use the wind to spin turbines to produce electricity.
The inability to store electricity in a cost effective bulk method has meant the moment to moment demand for electricity needs to be met by moment to moment generation. Coal and gas are able to meet this demand, because they can produce high voltages very quickly and be stepped down quickly also.
Typically renewable sources of electricity such as wind and solar are more intermittent and only supply when the conditions are right. These have not been sufficient on their own to meet our needs. Innovation in technology is resulting in renewable energy sources that provide more reliable supply of electricity and storage systems that can be paired with intermittent supplies to be used at a later date.