Difference Between Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

Renewable resources are those natural resources that are regenerated in a time interval equal to or less than their consumption. This type of resource is characterized by being easily regenerable, either by natural processes or by human action, existing in a practically indefinite quantity.

Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, are those natural resources whose regeneration occurs at a much slower rate than their consumption, so their quantity is limited. Because of this, these resources are exhaustible.

Both types of resources are generally used in the production of different types of energy, each presenting particular advantages and disadvantages.

renewable resources

Nonrenewable resources


They are the natural resources that can be renewed at the rate of their consumption, being in a potentially unlimited quantity. They are natural resources that cannot be regenerated at the same rate as their consumption, running out over time.


  • They are fast regenerating.
  • They may be found in large numbers.
  • Easy to use and process.
  • They regenerate slowly.
  • Its quantity is limited.
  • All these resources are found on our planet.


  • They are friendly to the environment.
  • They require minimal human intervention.
  • They can be unlimited.
  • They generate a lot of energy at relatively low cost.
  • If necessary, they are easy to extract and manufacture.
  • They are in good quantity.


  • The initial investment cost is high.
  • Unpredictable.
  • Power generation is limited with current technology.
  • They cause a negative impact on the environment.
  • In case of exhaustion, it is impossible to regenerate them.
  • They are available in some regions and not others.
  • Their interdependence can create geoeconomic conflicts.
  • The sun, wind, tides, geothermal energy.
  • Water.
  • Biomass and biofuels (ethanol).
  • Agricultural production.
  • Some timber forests.
  • Coal.
  • Natural gas (methane).
  • Oil and byproducts.
  • Mineral carbon.
  • Different minerals and metals.
  • Some underground water deposits.

What is a resource?

A resource is an element that is used to produce, directly or indirectly, for which it has an economic production value and can be potential, in use or found in reserves.

Natural resources are a type of resources that are found in nature and that are used in their natural state or after being processed. These can be renewable or non-renewable, which means that it is possible to regenerate them or, instead, be depleted due to their consumption.

They are used for human consumption, in the production of energy, in goods and/or in services.

What are renewable resources?

Renewable resources are a type of natural resource that can be renewed in a time interval equal to or less than the rate at which it is consumed. This type of resource does not generate negative impacts on the environment during its use or exploitation.

Some of these resources are basically unlimited, since they are naturally renewed or produced without human intervention. For example, solar radiation and wind.

Others, on the other hand, are renewed as soon as they are being used, so they remain in constant availability, as in the case of timber forests and different agricultural resources.

Those resources that require the existence of a production process to obtain them assume that their consumption is not exceeded, since it can affect its reserves.

Characteristics of renewable resources

  • They regenerate almost or faster than they are consumed.
  • They may or may not require human intervention for their generation.
  • They can be found in unlimited quantity.
  • Its use and/or production is generally friendly to the environment.
  • In most cases, obtaining energy from these resources requires a high initial financial investment.
  • The behavior of some of these resources can be unpredictable.

renewable energy resources

Renewable energy is a type of energy that comes from nature and its use generally does not have negative effects on the environment, compared to various types of non-renewable energy.

Solar panels are used to capture the sun’s energy through the use of photovoltaic cells.

Main renewable energy resources

Solar energy is one of the most abundant renewable energy resources. The amount of energy that can be obtained from the sun for human consumption is unlimited, considering current energy needs.

The energy from the wind, called wind energy, is obtained thanks to large structures called wind turbines, installed in wind farms where there are constant currents of strong winds. These currents move turbines that generate electrical energy.

Hydraulic energy is that which is obtained from the movement of water, generally from rivers. As with wind energy, it is obtained through turbines.

Geothermal energy is a form of renewable energy that uses the heat that emanates from within the Earth, coming from its internal radiation.

Another example of renewable energy is biofuels, which are characterized by being produced through the use of agricultural crops. For example, ethanol is produced from the cultivation of corn and sugar cane.

Advantages of renewable energy resources

Some advantages of this type of resources is that they are found in practically unlimited quantities, the operating costs are much lower than those necessary in the generation of non-renewable energy, in addition to allowing energy to be produced locally with available resources.

Disadvantages of renewable energy resources

On the other hand, among the disadvantages are that the cost of producing this type of energy is high in the short term. Also, since there is little or no human influence on the production of many of the resources themselves (as in the case of wind), they can be unpredictable.

While it is true that they can offer the capacity to create energy locally, they also limit the type of energy that can be used (a region poor in rivers is not capable of generating as much hydroelectric power, for example).

Examples of renewable resources

  • Sun (solar radiation).
  • Water.
  • Wind and tides.
  • Biomass (it is the organic matter that produces energy, whether processed or in its natural state) and Biofuels.
  • Animal population for human consumption that is maintained in reproduction.
  • Manufactured items such as recycled paper.
  • Forests of trees that have an accelerated growth cycle.

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What are non-renewable resources?

Non-renewable resources are resources that take a long time to renew and/or exist in limited quantity, and human consumption can deplete their reserves.

Basically, the more these types of resources are used, the more scarce they become, since they cannot regenerate naturally in the short term.

Characteristics of non-renewable resources

  • They do not regenerate or they regenerate slowly.
  • Its consumption rate is greater than its regeneration rate.
  • Generally, it is relatively easy to obtain them.
  • It is possible to get a lot of energy from these at a relatively low economic cost.
  • Its use and exploitation have a negative impact on the environment.

Non-renewable energy resources

Non-renewable energy resources are those resources used to obtain energy, being finite and/or exhausted without being able to regenerate quickly.

One of its main characteristics is the fact that these resources are found on our planet. For example, oil, natural gas and various types of minerals.

The biggest disadvantage that the use and exploitation of this type of energy resources entails is that they are highly harmful to the environment.

Oil rigs are large structures used to extract oil.

Main non-renewable energy resources

Oil is a non-renewable energy resource that, despite increasing in value over time, is still relatively inexpensive when considering its ability to generate energy. Petroleum derivatives work as fuel, for example, gasoline and diesel.

Nuclear energy is a form of non-renewable energy that is obtained from minerals such as uranium. This is mined and then atomically processed through nuclear fission, which leads to the release of large amounts of energy.

Mineral coal is also a widely used material, as well as oil, and it needs to be extracted. This is used to generate electricity in specialized thermal plants. The biggest problem is its high level of environmental pollution.

Another widely used form of non-renewable energy is that which comes from natural gas, specifically methane. This is found under layers of earth, being necessary to dig to extract it. It is used to generate heat, in domestic heaters and for cooking.

Advantages of non-renewable energy resources

The energy obtained from this type of resources is relatively cheap, when compared to the energy production of renewable resources. Generally, from materials such as fossil fuels it is possible to obtain a large amount of energy at low cost.

In addition, this type of resource is easier to manufacture for energy than renewables. Many of these, such as coal and natural gas, are essentially ready to use.

Disadvantages of non-renewable energy resources

Among the main disadvantages of non-renewable energy resources is the fact that they are exhaustible. The consequences of a high dependence on its use can be serious, in the event of a global shortage.

In addition, practices such as extensive mining can affect large areas, the habitat and animal species of a region. Likewise, the combustion of petroleum derivatives contributes to environmental pollution (for example, with the release of a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) and global warming.

Another big problem is the interdependence created by the generalized and standardized consumption of certain types of non-renewable energy. For example, when a country is rich in these types of resources, it can be involved in complex geoeconomic, social and human problems with other countries that depend on it.

In the same way, countries that lack these resources are at the mercy of fluctuating international prices for these resources and their derivatives.

Examples of non-renewable resources

  • Petroleum and its derivatives.
  • Natural gas.
  • Mineral carbon.
  • Nuclear energy.
  • Some groundwater settlements.

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