Fossil fuels.
Extraction of oil

What Is a Conventional Source of Energy? Non-renewable Energy

What is a conventional source of energy? Non-renewable energy

A conventional energy source is any fuel that comes from a non-renewable resource. The three most common types of traditional energy sources are fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are formed from the remains of prehistoric natural resources: plants and animals. Nuclear energy comes from the heat and light released by atoms as they split apart or fuse.

All of these sources of energy have their pros and cons. For example, fossil fuels are a reliable and affordable source of energy, but they release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. On the other hand, nuclear power is carbon-neutral but produces radioactive waste.

As we look for ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and move towards a more sustainable future, we must understand all of our options for generating energy. Keep reading to learn more about conventional sources of energy and their drawbacks.

Non-renewable Energy Definition

We define non- renewable energy as energy sources that tend to run out. It is because the speed with which these resources are consumed is greater than the speed with which they regenerate.

However, non- renewable energy sources currently provide most of the world's energy needs, but their use comes with many environmental concerns. For example, burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Nuclear power plants can also harm the environment if not properly managed, and, in addition, there is a limited quantity of nuclear fuel worldwide.

In contrast, renewable sources of energy are unlimited and include solar energy, tidal energy, and wind energy, among others.

Geothermal energy, in general, is considered renewable energy. However, a specific type of geothermal energy uses hot water. Therefore, depending on the ability to regenerate these hot springs, geothermal energy could be non-renewable energy.

Conventional Energy Types

There are two types of conventional energy sources:

Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are the most common type of conventional energy sources. They are formed from the remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago and have been trapped underground and transformed due to impressive pressure and temperature conditions.

We can classify fossil fuels depending on their structure and composition as follows:

  • Coal is a fossil fuel that forms when dead plant matter is subjected to high pressures and temperatures over millions of years. It is a black or brownish-black sedimentary rock that can be burned for fuel and used to generate electricity. Coal is composed mainly of carbon but contains smaller amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur.

  • Oil is a mixture of organic compounds that have also been formed from organic matter. Under normal pressure and temperature conditions, it is a bituminous liquid. Crude oil is the raw material used to produce various products, including gasoline, diesel fuel, and home heating oil. It can also be used to create plastics and other chemicals.

  • Natural gas is a hydrocarbon mixture of light gases of natural origin in which its main compound is methane. Natural gas is used to heat homes and businesses, as well as to generate electricity.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is another type of conventional energy source. It comes from the energy released by atoms as they split apart or fuse. Nuclear power plants use uranium as fuel to generate atomic reactions to get steam and finally to generate electricity. 

Pros and Cons of Conventional Sources of Energy Resources

Different methods of generating electricity have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Conventional Energy Sources

  • Constant production: Power plants powered by fossil or nuclear fuels are reliable energy sources. It means that they can provide power when needed.

  • Low fuel cost: The fuel price for this type of power plant is relatively low.

Disadvantages of Conventional Resources.

  • They are not renewable: fossil fuels took millions of years to form. Also, they cannot be replaced once they have been used. So if we continue to use these fuels, they will run out.

  • They harm the environment by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when fossil fuels burn. One of the leading causes of climate change and global warming is the excessive use and burning of these fuels.

  • Sulfur dioxide emission: Coal and natural gas release sulfur dioxide when burned. This gas can cause respiratory problems for living things. It is also an important part of acid rain.

  • The cost of the facilities is high: power plants are expensive to build. It is also costly to dismantle old nuclear power plants and store their radioactive waste.

  • The danger of oil spills that can happen during oil drilling, transportation, or storage is one of the most damaging types of pollution to the environment and the economy. They can cause significant damage to marine life and coastal habitats, contaminate drinking water supplies, and make beaches unsafe for swimming.

What Is Fossil Energy?

Fossil energy is part of the energy that is not renewable. Therefore, we refer to fossil energy as the energy generated by fossil fuels.

The primary sources of fossil fuels are coal, oil, and natural gas. These resources are called conventional fossil resources.

There are also unconventional fossil resources. These are not presented in their current form. They are present in deposits that are difficult to access.

What Are the Conventional Resources?

Conventional resources are all that the consumption rate is higher than the generation rate. 

What is a conventional source of energy? Non-renewable energyThe concept of conventional energy is closely related to that of traditional resources.

Conventional resources include conventional energy but also materials and minerals.

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. The extraction of these metals by humans only occurs when sufficient natural geological processes concentrate them to be economically viable to extract.

The general processes that generate metals are due to thermal energy, pressure, organic activity, weathering, and other procedures.

These processes generally take tens of thousands to millions of years to develop.

Localized deposits of metallic minerals near the surface, which humans can economically mine, are not renewable on a human scale. That is, they regenerate, but they take millions of years.

Certain rare earth minerals and elements are scarcer and more exhausting than others. As a result, these materials are in high demand in the industry, particularly for electronics.

Most metallic minerals are considered much more manageable to supply than fossil fuels. The reason is that the conditions for fossil fuels to form are more complex and limited than the conditions for metal ores to form.

Examples of Conventional Energies

Some examples in which traditional sources of energy are used are the following:

Cars, Trucks, and Road Vehicles

Traditionally, these types of vehicles use gasoline, a petroleum-derived fuel. Gasoline comprises several chemicals, including hydrocarbons derived from crude oil. In addition, gasoline is a volatile substance that can easily catch fire if not handled correctly. 

Cargo Ships

Cargo ships are large vessels used to transport goods and materials from one port to another. These ships are usually powered by diesel engines, which use heavy fuel oil. The advantage of diesel is that this fuel is much cheaper than regular gasoline. Unfortunately, however, it is also much dirtier and produces more emissions.

Aircraft Engines

Airplanes are typically powered by jet engines, propelling an aircraft forward with a stream of hot exhaust gases.

Jet fuel is a type of aviation gasoline used to power these engines. It is made up of many different hydrocarbons, including kerosene and naphtha. It is usually more expensive than regular gasoline because it has to be able to withstand high temperatures and pressures.

Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear power plants work by using uranium as fuel. The process starts when the uranium is mined and then enriched to create fuel pellets. These pellets are then loaded into a reactor and undergo nuclear fission. This process releases a significant amount of heat energy used to heat water, creating steam. The steam turns turbines, which in turn generate electricity.


Published: May 17, 2016
Last review: May 22, 2020