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Renewable vs Nonrenewable Resources

Why are renewable sources of energy better than nonrenewable sources? In this article, we compare the benefits and drawbacks of renewable vs nonrenewable resources to find out.

Why Renewables Are Better

Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and biomass. Together, they offer many benefits over nonrenewable alternatives such as coal, oil, and gas. We will now take a look at each of the main benefits.

1. Renewables Are Better For The Environment

Renewables are much better for the environment than nonrenewable alternatives. Solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro energy doesn’t produce any carbon dioxide. This is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Non-renewable alternatives such as coal, oil, and natural gas are less kind to the environment. To make use of the energy they contain, we need to burn them. The burning of fossil fuels releases significant quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They are also responsible for methane and nitrous oxide emissions (other harmful greenhouse gases).

Some renewable resources do have environmental concerns, however. Of the five main types of renewables, biomass and hydro energy have the most concern:

  • Biomass – Although a renewable resource, we still need to burn biomass to generate power. This releases emissions just like the burning of fossil fuels does. There is an upside to this though. As the organic matter that makes up biomass grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide. This helps to offset the pollution it generates as we burn it. When managed in a sustainable way, biomass can be carbon neutral.
  • Hydro – Hydroelectric dams are known for flooding large areas of land to form a reservoir. This can lead to the decay of vegetation, which releases methane. Again, there is an upside, however. The amount of clean electricity a hydroelectric dam can generate will result in much lower carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuel alternatives.

2. Renewable Energy Resources Will Never Run Out

This is one of the main benefits in the renewable vs nonrenewable debate. A renewable resource means it will never run out. It will be replenished quickly. For solar energy, the sun shines during the day and will come back the next. With wind energy, the wind blows regularly. Geothermal activity will always exist for as long as the earth supports life. The same goes for water – it will always be available.

3. Using Renewables Conserves Nonrenewable Resources

Similar to our second benefit is the fact that using renewables can conserve non-renewable resources. Unlike renewable energy sources, non-renewables will one day run out.

Fossil fuels are formed out of prehistoric plants and animals. Coal, oil, and natural gas can take millions of years to form naturally. When they have run out, they are gone. You cannot simply wait until the day after to be able to use them again. For this reason, it is important to conserve them for future generations to use.

Why Nonrenewables Are Better

Renewable energy sources don’t win the debate in every instance, however. Nonrenewable alternatives are better in other ways. Lets now take a look at why you might choose nonrenewables over renewables.

1. Nonrenewables Are Cheap And Reliable

There is no question that nonrenewable energies are cheap and reliable. They are used all over the world and support a thriving global energy industry. This helps to reduce the cost of fossil fuels by a considerable amount.

Renewables such as solar and wind energy are susceptible to atmospheric conditions. This makes them less reliable than fossil fuels. With coal, oil, and gas, we can store it for use when we need it. With solar and wind, you can only harness it when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.

2. Nonrenewable Energy Sources Are Well Established

Nonrenewable energy sources are hugely popular all over the world. We use them in everything from power plants through to transport and cooking. A global network of energy infrastructure exists to support the use of nonrenewables. Because this type of energy is so well established, it would be difficult and expensive to switch to renewables overnight.

Because renewables are less established, they tend to be more expensive. This can put people off investing in clean energy technologies. A primary example of this is electric cars. These, can, in theory, be charged from renewable electricity. The problem is that cars running on traditional fuels such as gasoline and diesel are still much cheaper.


There’s no question that nonrenewable energy resources are an easy way of meeting our energy demands. They are well established, affordable, and just ‘easy’. The problem with nonrenewables, however, is that they will have significant consequences for future generations.

Renewable energy sources can help to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. This, in turn, will help to curb the future effects of climate change. It will also help to improve air quality and our health.

Whatsmore, renewables are completely free to use! We are not charged for the energy we consume, only the technology we need to buy. As prices of solar panels come down, more and more homeowners are likely to make the switch to solar energy.

We can conclude that renewable energy sources are a far better choice than nonrenewables. If you would like to take an unbiased look at the pros and cons of renewables then we have an article covering the topic in detail here.