The use of the term Steampunk in the title is to locate a certain kind of sci-fi world, since it seems to me that by using this term, we also refer to its "brother" Clockpunk (clockwork as a mechanism instead of steam).

I have been wondering what are the energy sources and how they are gathered and converted in enegy? I admit I know little of this entire fantastic world even if apparently I have liked it for years without knowing it was it (20.000 leagues under the sea springs to mind).

I mean since no electricity exists, how does energy work? How are lights working? I have tried to search for this but there isn't much on the internet. Feel free to post anything regarding the energy sources because I haven't really understood much about this side of the genre.


3 Answers 3


Steampunk covers a fairly wide variety of works across many authors, so there's no single definitive answer, but the most common source of energy is probably... steam.

Many works reference coal-burning stoves or other sources of heat powering steam-driven engines. Steam-driven engines can easily include steam turbines, which could then, in turn, generate a source of electricity.

In fact, 90% of the electricity generated in the United States today is generated by steam turbines powered by a variety of sources.

Other power sources commonly used in Steampunk fiction are steam locomotive engines.

  • A side question: could a story be steampunk, clockpunk, teslapunk, etc simultaneously? And also, I'm aware of that source but I was wondering if there were more and how they are obtained.
    – Alenanno
    Apr 3, 2013 at 14:29
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    It really varies so widely from specific work to specific work. Certainly there are other sources of energy beyond steam in many of them. For instance, China Miéville's Bas-Lag world incorporates both steam energy sources and magical sources (such as 'crisis' energy).
    – Beofett
    Apr 3, 2013 at 14:57
  • I see, so there are many. Do you know of some online resource where the most common are listed? If not it's ok, but it doesn't hurt to ask. :D
    – Alenanno
    Apr 3, 2013 at 15:01
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    Not off-hand, but keep in mind that steampunk is arguably more about the aesthetic than the energy source. Of possible help might be wikipedia's page on Cyberpunk Derivatives, which mentions thinks like dieselpunk and biopunk.
    – Beofett
    Apr 3, 2013 at 15:15
  • I have seen that page (it was linked in my question) but I was wondering if there was more. Thanks anyway. :)
    – Alenanno
    Apr 3, 2013 at 15:17

I don't think it's justified to say that "no electricity exists" in steampunk. After all, that world is based on the mid to late 19th Century, whereas electricity has been understood in the real world since the time of Ben Franklin, a hundred years before. According to Wikipedia, Volta made the first battery in 1800, and Faraday's motor was in 1821. And don't forget the significance of electricity in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, published in 1818.

So I think it's fair to assume that in steampunk, those discoveries were also known and extended by the inventors of that world.


I would assume that power would come from steam pushing motors, like windmills, it would be more safe. (I don't understand why we can't use this strategy to make power now, it's more fuel safe)

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