Renewable vs Non-renewable Resources: 07 Major Differences

The words renewable and non-renewable resources are not new to us. Still, we have a lot more to know about them. 

We have a basic idea that resources which are never going to end are renewable and that gets exhausted after usage are non-renewable.

In this post, we will discuss an in-depth comparison on renewable vs non-renewable resources along with their advantages and disadvantages.

You might find the words renewable/non-renewable resources & renewable/non-renewable energy interchangeably. 

Renewable resources are the resources that are found from natural elements like solar, water, wind, etc. And the energy produced using these resources is called renewable energy. 

So basically the meaning of both of them is quite similar & you might find them used mutually in this post.

Renewable Energy Resources

The resources that get replenished naturally with time and never get exhausted are called renewable resources. 

Although both types of resources (renewable & non-renewable) are natural, the sources of renewable energy are infinite.

Renewable energy is also known as clean energy because using it doesn’t harm the environment by creating pollution.

Many of us think that harnessing renewable resources is quite new, but it has been done continuously for a long time on a small scale. 

If you look at the history of mankind, you will find that earlier human beings used renewable energy for heating water, cooking food, transportation, etc.

Wind energy has been used to power the boats for sailing miles across the sea, Still many of us use sunlight to heat water by keeping a bucket of water on the roof. 

Examples of renewable resources include:

The availability of these resources like wind, water, solar, etc. will not diminish with use. 

The only problem is it takes too much time to produce energy from these resources. And to produce energy on a large scale special equipment and technologies are required.


Non-renewable Energy Resources

On the other hand, non-renewable energy resources are exhausted more quickly than they are replenished, so they are finite. All fossil fuels are examples of non-renewable energy resources.

Non-renewable resources can be seen as a quick fix but not as a permanent solution. They produce energy quickly but create a lot of pollution in doing so. 

Also, these are always in demand as they are relatively cheaper, easily affordable & have higher energy content compared to renewable energy resources.

Examples of non-renewable resources include:

  • Coal, Petroleum, and natural gas (that came under fossil fuels).
  • Nuclear Fuels which include Uranium mostly used in nuclear plants to heat water.

Renewable vs Non-renewable Resources: Major Differences

In this section, we have compared renewable resources vs non-renewable resources on the basis of several factors including cost, depletion, environmental impact, etc.

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In order to make it easy for you to understand, we have compared the two in the tabular format as shown below:

BasisRenewable ResourcesNon-renewable Resources
SourcesWind, Water, Solar energy, Tidal power, Biogas, etc.Coal, Petroleum, Natural gas, Uranium, etc.
DepletionWind, solar energy will never deplete no matter how much we use them. They are depleted more quickly than they are produced.
CostIn terms of cost, renewable resources are very costly for setup but with time it will become cheaper. Non-renewable resources are comparatively cheaper than renewable resources.
Availability Although renewable resources are easily available in nature, generating electricity is not easily possible.They are readily available to use at a cheap price.
Environmental ImpactTo move to a zero-carbon world, renewable resources will be helpful as they produce clean energy.Non-renewable resources harm the environment. Using it increases pollution and also increases carbon emissions.
Infrastructure RequirementsSpecial equipment and technology are required which are not available in every country and they are very costly.The infrastructure needed for non-renewable resources to produce energy is available everywhere and is cost-effective.
Area RequirementsA large area is required to set up plants or large farmsVery little area is required.

Till now, we have differentiated between renewable & non-renewable resources on the basis of 7 major factors. Let us now have a look at the advantages & disadvantages of both of them.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Resources

Renewable energy resources do have both advantages & disadvantages. You might know that renewable energy is eco-friendly, but there are numerous other benefits as well as problems associated with it.

The major advantages & disadvantages associated with renewable energy are listed below.

Advantages of Renewable Resources

Eco-friendly: As already discussed, renewable energy is also known as clean energy, it doesn’t contribute to the harm of the global environment. Using renewable energy doesn’t cause an increase in pollution and it also does not emit carbon to the environment.

It is renewable: Renewable resources are renewable. It means that they won’t get exhausted if we use them, there is no chance that they will run out after regular use.

Whereas fossil fuels are limited resources and have a high chance of running out in the future.

So we should not use something that will get exhausted in the future, instead, we should use the resources that have unlimited availability.

Low maintenance cost: Renewable resources don’t include any flammable or combustible fuel sources so the operation is pretty clean. Once the setup is done properly there is a very little movement among the parts hence they incur very low maintenance costs.

However, the setting up cost is quite higher but once it is done then there will be a very less additional cost.

Futuristic: Better technology in the future will result in better utilization of renewable resources. This will also result in better employment in the future by providing jobs to those prospects who will contribute to future technology. So we can say that renewable resources are future-oriented.

Save Money and are Profitable: If we look at it in the long term, we can see that the initial investment cost is quite higher. But with time it will also help you to save a lot of money on your electricity bill.

As already mentioned in the above points, the maintenance cost is very low, thus the operational cost of using the technology is also very low. Hence using renewable resources will save you a lot of money and will be a profitable decision.

Related: 21 Surprising Benefits of Solar Energy

Disadvantages of Renewable Resources

Weather dependent: Renewable energy technologies are fully dependent on the weather condition. In cloudy weather, solar energy can’t be harnessed so installing solar panels in such a place where the weather is cloudy most of the time will be a bad decision.

On the other hand, the windmill is totally dependent on the blowing of wind so in such a place where very little wind blows Wind turbines will not work there properly.  

Low Electricity Generation Capacity:  Renewable resources are still not at their peak so the performance is still not at best. There is still room for improvement and in the future, it can be hoped to give good results.

Huge Upfront Cost: The setup cost of renewable resources is very high as they require special equipment like solar panels, windmills, dams, which require huge upfront capital to set up.

In the case of non-renewable resources, no such special equipment is required so the upfront capital requirement is lower. 

A Lot of Space to Install: The equipment that is needed to produce renewable energy requires a lot of space to set up. In the case of solar panels, people prefer to set them up on the rooftop as it will take a lot of space on the ground. 

Related: Solar Energy Disadvantages

To set up a windmill a large open space is required because the blades of the mill are very long.

To generate a large capacity of electricity, a large field is required and clearing forest to make space leads to deforestation. 

Difficult to store energy:  Renewable energy sources are not always available, like at night solar energy is not available. Similarly in a season with no rain, tidal energy can’t be used. 

So the problem is not with harnessing the energy, the problem is with storing the energy once it is produced.

In the case of non-renewable energy, the energy source can be stored and used whenever necessary but it is quite hard in the case of renewable energy.

Related: Solar Energy Storage Methods


Advantages and Disadvantages of Non-renewable Resources

Like renewable energy, there are benefits & challenges associated with the use of non-renewable energy as well. Some of the major points are discussed in the below sections.

Advantages of Non-renewable Resources

Cost-effective: Non-renewable resources are very cost-effective. They are easy to produce and easier to use. No special equipment is required to use non-renewable resources.

High Efficiency: Non-renewable resources are way ahead of renewable energy resources in terms of overall energy production.

Easy Storage: Non-renewable energy can be stored easily in underground pockets or reservoirs around the world.  

Disadvantages of Non-renewable Resources

Harm environment: The main problem with the usage of non-renewable resources is they are not environment friendly. 

In order to produce energy, most nonrenewable resources need to be burned, leaving behind dangerous gas emissions which cause global warming.

Easily exhausted: Using non-renewable resources provides quick results but they get quickly exhausted. A new source of regular supply must be searched otherwise the supply will drop. 

Moreover, the mining process is also very dangerous – many lost their lives while mining for non-renewable resources.

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Renewable vs Non-renewable Resources


What are renewable resources?

As the name implies, renewable resources continuously replenish themselves over time without being depleted. Among the examples are solar power, wind, tidal forces, water, etc.

What are non-renewable resources?

Non-renewable resources are those that are exhausted before they can even be replenished. These are limited & examples include coal, petroleum & natural gas.

What are some disadvantages of renewable energy?

Disadvantages of renewable energy include huge upfront cost, weather dependency & large space requirements.

Why is renewable energy better compared to non-renewable energy?

Renewable energy resources are renewable, sustainable & produce no harmful emissions. Thus, using them is a better choice in the long run.


Through this post, I have tried to compare renewable vs non-renewable resources along with their advantages & disadvantages. 

Finally, we can conclude that renewable energy resources are clean but cannot be used at all times & in all weather conditions. On the other hand, non-renewable resources can be used anytime, but it’s not a clean source of energy.

What do you think about these two sources of energy? Leave a comment & share your suggestions!

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