Non-renewable energies are the methods of obtaining energy through a source of exhaustible energy.

The concept of non-renewable energy is taken into account at the scale of human life, since certain processes, such as the accumulation of carbon, have taken up to five hundred million years.


In general, non-renewable energy is what consumes some type of fuel (oil, coal, uranium …). While renewable energy uses other types of energy resources (solar radiation, wind energy, hydropower, tidal energy, etc.).


Although properly speaking some fuels, in the near future, they can consist of raw materials considered renewable, such as hydrogen.

Solar energy takes advantage of the radiation generated by the Sun. The Sun has a limited life, but this life is so many millions of years that on a human scale it is considered inexhaustible. For this reason, solar energy can not be classified as non-renewable solar energy.

Definition of non-renewable energy

These energy sources are very harmful to the environment. 

* They will run out some day. What we consume does not grow anymore, it goes away.    

 Some day we have no more! 

In a general way, we define non-renewable energies as energy sources that tend to deplete, becoming too expensive or too polluting for the environment, as opposed to  renewable energies  , which are replenished naturally in a relatively short period of time. weather.

Non-renewable energy is obtained from sources that are present in a limited way and that, therefore, can be exhausted.

Examples (coal, plutonium, oil, …). Here we are talking about a certain absolute amount.

Non-renewable energy sources


There are two types of non-renewable (or exhaustible) energy sources:

  • Conventional non-renewable energy sources. These are  fossil fuels coal oil  and  natural gas  and chemical reactions between certain materials ( batteries ). In this case, it is about fossil energies.
  • Non-conventional non-renewable energy sources. These energy sources come from  agrofuels biofuels , or cultivated fuels, and nuclear fuels (uranium and plutonium) used in  nuclear power plants .

The  geothermal energy generally is considered as  renewable energy , but there is a certain type of  geothermal energy  that uses the hot water would also be non – renewable energy in certain locations.

Fossil energy

Fossil energy is part of non-renewable energies. We refer to fossil energy to the energy generated by fossil fuels. The main sources of fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas. These resources are called conventional fossil resources, unlike fossil fuels called unconventional.

Non-conventional fossil resources are not presented in their current form and are present in hard-to-access deposits.

Nonrenewable resources



The concept of non-renewable energy is closely related to that of non-renewable resources. Non-renewable resources are all those resources that the rate of consumption is higher than the rate of generation.

Non-renewable resources include non-renewable energy, but also materials and minerals.

The case of  fossil fuels , for example  coal , is about non-renewable minerals with which non-renewable energy is obtained.

Terrestrial minerals and metallic minerals

Terrestrial minerals and metallic minerals are examples of non-renewable resources. The metals themselves are present in large quantities in the earth’s crust, and their extraction by humans only occurs when they are concentrated by natural geological processes (such as  heat  –  thermal energy  -, pressure, organic activity, weathering and other processes) sufficient for be economically viable to extract. These processes usually need tens of thousands to millions of years to develop.

Localized deposits of metallic minerals near the surface, which can be extracted economically by humans, are not renewable in human times. There are certain minerals and rare earth elements that are more scarce and exhausting than others.

These materials have a high demand in the industry, in particular for electronics.

Most metallic minerals are considered much easier to supply than fossil fuels, because the conditions for the formation of  fossil fuels  are more difficult and limited than the conditions for the formation of metallic minerals.

Information on non-renewable energies.

There are different types of non-renewable energy. In general, we can distinguish between energy generated with fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Fossil fuels


Fossil fuels are fuels that  originate from dead organisms  through  a long-term natural process  .

A large amount of energy is stored in fossil fuels, so it is very useful to generate electricity with it, for example.

The processes that make up these fossil fuels usually last millions of years. The best known fossil fuels are oil, gas and coal.

At present, most of the energy consumed in the Netherlands comes from fossil fuels. Natural gas is the fuel that we use the most in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is also a major producer of natural gas.

The disadvantages of fossil fuels.

The main disadvantages of this form of energy generation are the emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and the fact that these fuels are running out (depletion). The CO2 contained in fossil fuels has not been released in the past and has been stored in these fuels for millions of years.

The CO2 that is released is no longer part of the CO2 cycle. After combustion, this CO2 is released again and ends up in our atmosphere as an additional quantity. These emissions of CO2 gases contribute to the greenhouse effect, which in turn can cause climate change.

Fossil fuels and politics.

Because fossil fuels are not present everywhere and can run out, it also influences the political climate. Countries want to secure the supply of these fuels and often depend on other countries for this.

A good example of this is the Middle East, which is very important for the global economy, because most of the world’s oil reserves are stored here.

Alternatives to fossil fuels.

Many people now consider it necessary to find new sources of more sustainable energy. Sustainable energy sources, such as wind and solar energy, are considered alternatives, but more efficient use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy is also considered a short-term solution.

The nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is the energy that is generated using nuclear reactors. Nuclear energy is relatively clean energy, but it carries a number of risks.



Energy of nuclear reactions

A large amount of energy can be generated by nuclear reactions with atomic nuclei. This energy is released as heat, which can be converted into electricity through steam, turbines or generators.

Radioactive waste

Radioactive waste is generated during the generation of nuclear energy. In the Netherlands, the Central Radioactive Waste Organization (COVRA) stores this. The COVRA has been wholly owned by the Dutch government since 2002.

COVRA stores radioactive waste above the ground for a period of at least 100 years. The intention is that radioactive waste is stored underground. Storing the underground waste is called final disposal. In this process, it is important that the radioactive waste be completely isolated from the biosphere. 

However, waste must remain accessible if better storage and processing methods are available in the future.

Much research is being done on various options for storing radioactive waste. Currently, there is only one country that can store radioactive waste underground. That is the United States.

All EU member states must send a national radioactive disposal program to the European Commission by August 2015 at the latest.

Discussion on nuclear energy

For a long time there has been a debate about the generation of nuclear energy. Proponents claim that this form of energy generation is clean and safe and emits very little CO2. 

Opponents argue that the generation of nuclear energy is a threat to people and nature.

The organization  WISE (World Information Service on Energy)  is committed to creating a world without nuclear energy.

 His vision is that it is possible to globally reach an affordable and reliable energy supply without using nuclear energy. The organization believes that this can only be achieved if the pressure builds up from below.

Nuclear disaster in Fukushima

The nuclear disaster in Fukushima (Japan) on March 11, 2011 has greatly boosted the debate on nuclear energy. An earthquake happened that day with a tsunami later. 

The nuclear power plant was sufficiently protected against the earthquake, but insufficient measures had been taken to protect the plant against a high surge. This caused a major nuclear disaster in which radioactive material was released into the atmosphere.

What are the effects of non-renewable sources on living organisms?

Non-renewable energies are sources of energy that can not be taken for granted. Examples of non-renewable energy sources are coal, oil and natural gas.

Unlike renewable energy sources, such as wind, water and sun, most of which are converted cleanly into clean energy, the conversion of fossil fuels into usable energy can generate harmful emissions and interrupt the collection of life. local wild.

Non-renewable energies are sources of energy that can not be taken for granted. Examples of non-renewable energy sources are coal, oil and natural gas.

 Unlike renewable energy sources, such as wind, water and sun, most of which are converted cleanly into clean energy, the conversion of fossil fuels into usable energy can generate harmful emissions and interrupt the collection of life. local wild.

Atmospheric effects

The processing of fossil fuels releases harmful greenhouse gases into the air. These gases, mainly carbon dioxide, damage the ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s rays. Air pollution also has a negative impact on our airways. 

A 2004 study concluded that the pollution of coal power plants shortened nearly 24,000 lives a year in the US. UU

Acid rain

Acid rain is created by the emission of sulfur and other chemicals into the atmosphere, often from the conversion of fossil fuels into electricity. It is corrosive to machines and can alter local ecosystems. In 1991, the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) discovered that five percent of New England lakes were acidic and two percent could no longer support trout.

Land pollution

Harmful ashes are stored in solid waste dumps that are susceptible to cracking and cause destruction in surrounding areas. In 2008, the containment area of ​​Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee was broken with the release of 5.4 million cubic meters of mud that released houses in the surrounding areas and released harmful ash into the air.

Oil spills

Oil spills are extremely harmful to nearby banks and ecosystems. They are also economically harmful. Analysts estimate that the British Petroleum oil spill in 2010 would cost $ 2.5 billion in losses only to the Louisiana fishing market.

 It is estimated that Florida lost 3 billion dollars in tourism revenue. Biologists feared that the Sargassum algae, vital to hundreds of species, would be eliminated due to the oil released in the Gulf of Mexico.

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