Non-Renewable Energy: Meaning, Advantages and Disadvantages

What is the meaning of non-renewable energy?
Non-renewable energy is, as its name suggests, energy that comes from a source that cannot be renewed. Or, in some case, energy that comes from a source that cannot easily be renewed.

When we use non-renewable energy, we deplete the energy source and we cannot re-use the energy that we have used. Once it's gone, it's gone for good.

On example of non-renewable energy is coal. Coal lies waiting for us to discover it in the earth, and coal mines are created by humans in order to extract coal and to burn it as fuel, using its energy to heat our homes or power machinery. However, once we burn a lump of coal, that coal is gone - we cannot reuse it. When we mine a coal mine to extract the coal from it, we reduce the overall amount of coal that exists in that mine.

There have been long running debates about the advantages and disadvantages of non-renewable energy sources. In order to help you to get your bearings with these debates, below you will find an overview of the main advantages and disadvantages of non-renewable energy.

Advantages of non-renewable energy.

1. High in energy.

Non-renewable sources of energy such as coal and oil tend to provide us with more energy per unit than do renewable energy sources such as solar or wind energy.

2. Able to move across the world.

Because they tend to come in solid, physical form such as lumps of coal or barrels of oil, non-renewable energy sources can usually easily be taken from place to place. That means that they can be convenient for people who live in areas that are not amenable to the harnessing of major renewable sources of energy (such as solar or wind energy).

3. Profitable.

There are many profits to be made in the mining of coal, the selling of oil or the construction of natural gas pipelines.

4. Traditional.

For many people, a wood and coal fire is something cozy and traditional. Many machines, fireplaces and other places where energy is used are specifically designed for use with non-renewable sources of energy.

5. Easy to use.

Non-renewable energy sources are pretty easy to burn, whether in a home or in a large factory.

6. Cost effective.

Many non-renewable sources of energy (such as natural gas, for example) are actually pretty cheap per unit.

7. Creating jobs.

Extracting, transporting and refining non-renewable sources of energy - as well as creating the machinery for using them - creates plenty of jobs and thus can be one way of sustaining a country's economy.

Disadvantages of non-renewable energy.

1. Time consuming to extract.

Mining coal, searching for oil, and building drills and pipes to extract and transport natural gas, are all very time consuming processes. This energy takes a lot of effort to get hold of!

2. Contribution to climate change.

Burning coal, oil and natural gas releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide which are major contributors to global warming. These chemicals destroy the ozone layer, make the oceans acidic and saturated with carbon, and make the air more difficult for animals to breathe and plants to flourish in. By creating a 'mantle' of carbon rich air in the atmosphere, moreover, these chemicals trap the sun's rays and make the atmosphere around the earth much warmer: this is the so-called greenhouse effect. It is called the greenhouse effect because it makes the atmosphere like a giant warm greenhouse.

3. Contribution to acid rain.

Burning fossil fuels releases oxides (including sulfur oxide) which cause rain to become acidic. This is very harmful to wildlife and also erodes buildings.

4. Dangerous for humans.

Non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels can emit carbon monoxide. This is dangerous to humans and can cause respiratory problems and death if inhaled. It is especially dangerous because it is colorless and odorless and thus not detectable by the human eye or sense of smell. We might ask ourselves whether using non-renewable fuels is worth the risk when there are many less dangerous renewable energy sources out there.

5. Not viable for future generations.

Because they are, by definition, non-renewable, non-renewable energy sources will eventually run out. That means that humans will not be able to base our lives on them forever. In fact, our reserves of many non-renewables may run out by the end of this century. Using non-renewable energy sources without taking steps to make our infrastructure, homes and factories ready to use renewable sources of energy could be said to be very selfish. Moreover, using up all the non-renewable sources of energy now, without leaving any for future generations, can also be said to be a selfish act.

6. Dirty.

Many non-renewable sources of energy are quite dirty, leaving soot and dirt on furnishings in the home. When used in factories, they release soot and other dirty substances into the air which can coat buildings and pavements, and make cities feel dirty and grimy. One reason for the unsightliness of modern cities - which some people complain about - and the smog that can make them seem dark and overcast, is the overuse of dirty, non-renewable sources of energy.


It seems that, though non-renewable sources of energy have their advantages, these are far outweighed by their disadvantages. Though they are convenient and rich in energy, for example, non-renewable fossil fuels are also very bad for the environment and dangerous to human health. Thus, it is imperative that human beings start using alternative - renewable - energy sources as soon as possible. Shifting from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy is easier than we might think! And, this matter becomes extra urgent when we consider that many of our non-renewable sources of energy are going to run out in several decades, anyway. It is important that we take action now in order to do the right thing by future generations.
Previous Post Next Post