Electrical conduction and insulation

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I have been studying how electrical conduction and insulation works but have a few things I would like to get cleared up. Thanks in advance for any help.

1. Why is the energy needed for an electron to jump to the conduction band in a material so much higher in insulators then conductors and why does the conduction band merge with the valence band in a conductor.

2. Why would an electron want to go to the conduction band if there is room in the valence band. And if it does get excited into the conduction band wouldn't it just release the excess energy and deexcite to the valence band again.
 

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