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The Costs of Non-Renewable Energy Sources

The Costs of Non-Renewable Energy Sources

The benefits of using renewable energy resources are numerous. These resources do not deplete and are replenished naturally. For example, the sun and wind are both renewable. The process of mining these materials does not destroy them. Once used, they are recycled.

The wind is also a renewable resource, and we can harness its power with a wind turbine. In fact, the amount of wind energy we use in the United States is smaller than the amount of energy we currently consume.

Understanding Non-Renewable Energy

Before delving into the costs, let's first understand what non-renewable energy sources are. Non-renewable energies are derived from sources that will eventually run out, typically extracted from finite resources, like fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and nuclear power (uranium).

Non-Renewable Energy Sources

Carbon dioxide emissions

The production of carbon dioxide is a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels in power plants. These emissions are then used to produce electricity for residential and commercial use, including lighting and appliances. The U.S. Inventory contains sections on energy and trends. It is estimated that about 50 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions come from fossil fuels. Fuel combustion also produces methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons.

Coal combustion is a major contributor to CO2 emissions, averaging 5 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. This is comparatively low compared to wind and solar energy. But, nuclear power also involves heavy energy use. It consumes huge amounts of electricity and also requires a lot of steel and concrete to make its centrifuges. Therefore, even zero-carbon sources of electricity have hidden energy and carbon footprints. In addition, coal and gas have lifecycle energy uses. They produce methane emissions from fuel extraction machinery, and the transportation of the fuel. Even if coal plants add carbon capture and sequestration technology, their emissions are not completely reduced.

These studies confirm the long-run relationship between these variables and the production of non-renewable energy. In other words, as oil prices rise, people switch to alternative energy sources and reduce CO2 emissions. Therefore, if we want to limit the use of fossil fuels, we should use more renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, and discourage consumption of non-renewable energy. The study also demonstrates that cities are a major source of carbon emissions.

While we can't fully eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, it is important to limit the use of them. The European Union has set an ambitious goal of 20% renewable electricity by 2020. In addition, regulators endorsed an earlier decision to declare wood carbon neutral. The use of wood in power plants is a good example of this. Wood is carbon-neutral and emits no CO2 after the burning process.


The impact of pollution from non-renewable energy sources is vast. According to a recent study, the burning of fossil fuels causes more than four million premature deaths each year. Additionally, this pollution can disrupt the water cycle and contaminate lakes. The impact on people's health goes beyond monetary considerations. In addition to the financial cost, pollution from non-renewable energy sources affects our health.

The combustion of biomass or municipal solid waste creates particle pollution, carcinogens, and greenhouse gases, and has a number of health effects. This pollution affects the respiratory system and can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and even cause premature death, especially among the elderly. Fortunately, there are clean, non-combustion energy sources. Using renewable energy will reduce emissions, create local jobs, and improve the efficiency of power production.

Non-renewable energy sources are the most significant threat to our environment. Unlike renewable resources, these fuels will run out. They are also limited in supply and pose a huge environmental risk. Coal, for instance, comes from dead plants millions of years ago. Oil, meanwhile, comes from petroleum and is refined into fuels for cars, jet fuel, and diesel. However, the downsides of these fuels are still not worth considering unless you're committed to reducing your carbon footprint.

Carbon dioxide, one of the most common pollutants, is a major component of non-renewable energy sources. This gas is produced when carbon dioxide is mixed with oxygen and burns. This gas pollutes our atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming. In recent years, carbon dioxide concentration has increased significantly, and a growing number of people have noticed acid rain, climate change, and a changing season. Consequently, it's important to use alternative energy sources to protect our environment.

Environmental damage

Fossil fuels are one of the most common forms of non-renewable energy. These fuels are composed of carbon, the main element of all living things. They were formed in a similar process to fossils hundreds of millions of years ago. The Earth had a different landscape then, with wetlands that absorbed sunlight and created energy through photosynthesis. As a result, fossil fuels are very destructive to the environment.

The problem with non-renewable energy is that they deplete fossil reserves. Several countries around the world have experienced a significant reduction in the amount of fossil fuels they use. They are also suffering from the negative impacts of drilling their energy reserves. China and India have both experienced significant reductions in their fossil energy resources. They must address this problem now if they want to continue to be prosperous in the future.


This report examines the costs of non-renewable energy sources from a long-term perspective. The study draws on data from 20 000 renewable power generation projects and 13 thousand power purchase agreements from around the world. The report shows that solar and wind power are among the least expensive sources of electricity, while coal and gas power are among the most expensive. It outlines the benefits of alternative sources and the costs associated with them. Several factors are considered to assess the costs of renewable energy.

Renewable energy sources are often cheaper than non-renewable energy, but the cost is not straightforward. Depending on the source, renewable energy can be both cost-effective and beneficial to the environment. The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Some people deny climate change and the fact that fossil fuels are finite. Others deny that renewable energy sources are expensive, especially in the United States, while climate activists are known to manipulate the numbers.

Currently, fossil fuel generation costs range from $0.05 to $0.17 per kilowatt hour. Solar voltaic and onshore wind power are expected to cost $0.03 – $0.07 per kilowatt-hour by 2020. Solar thermal energy costs between $0.06 and $0.10 per kWh. By 2050, costs for all non-renewable energy sources are expected to fall below $0.10/kWh.

Solar power costs have come down dramatically and are now less expensive than coal in most countries. As the price of renewables continues to drop, developing nations will have good reason to phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewable sources. It will save the planet money and add jobs while meeting the energy needs of the global population. According to the IEA and World Bank, carbon neutrality can be achieved by 2050. However, this requires drastic changes, including massive cuts in fossil fuels and significant investment in renewables.

Storage of excess energy from non-renewable energy sources

Electricity storage is a key component of renewable energy development. This technology is becoming increasingly important as renewable energy sources become intermittent. Pumped storage is one well-established option, but other megawatt-scale technologies are also being developed. While pumped storage is the most common form of storage for electricity, battery storage is being promoted as a complementary solution to household solar PV installations. Batteries can be charged and discharged at different times of the day and can help reduce evening peak demand.

The European Commission has recognized the value of energy storage and recently proposed a broader definition of electricity storage. Under the new definition, it covers the deferring of electricity to a time when it is needed and converting it to another energy carrier. In addition, power-to-gas concepts are now included in the regulatory definition of energy storage. For example, hydrogen produced from intermittent renewable sources can be converted to fuel for vehicles, or sold directly from electrolyzers, which could provide ancillary grid services.

The Shift to Renewable Energy

In response to the escalating costs and environmental consequences linked to non-renewable energy sources, the world has witnessed an unprecedented and pervasive transition toward renewable energy. This momentous shift has been fueled by the recognition of the urgent need to address climate change and foster sustainable energy practices for the future.

Governments and international organizations have taken significant strides in redefining their energy policies and investing substantially in renewable technologies. Solar power, with its abundant potential and capacity to harness sunlight into electricity, has become a focal point of many renewable energy initiatives. Advancements in solar technology, such as photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power systems, have enabled greater efficiency and scalability, making solar a more viable and attractive energy option.

The wind energy sector has also experienced remarkable growth, as wind turbines are increasingly deployed to capture the kinetic energy of moving air and convert it into electricity. Innovations in wind turbine design, along with strategic placement in wind-rich locations, have bolstered the capacity and reliability of wind power generation, further driving the transition towards clean energy solutions.

FAQs: The Costs of Non-Renewable Energy Sources

1. What are non-renewable energy sources?

Non-renewable energy sources refer to fuels that are finite and deplete over time, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Unlike renewable energy sources, they do not replenish themselves naturally within a human timeframe.

2. Why are non-renewable energy sources costly in terms of extraction?

As easily accessible deposits of non-renewable energy sources deplete, extraction processes have to delve deeper underground or explore more remote and challenging environments. This results in increased costs related to labor, technology, and logistics.

3. How do non-renewable energy sources contribute to air pollution?

When burned, non-renewable energy sources, especially coal, and oil, release greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) and other harmful pollutants. These emissions contribute to global warming and deteriorate air quality, leading to smog and respiratory issues.

4. Can non-renewable energy extraction lead to water pollution?

Yes. The extraction and refining processes of these energy sources can contaminate water sources. For example, runoff from coal mines can introduce toxic chemicals to rivers, and oil spills can harm marine ecosystems.

5. How do non-renewable energy sources impact human health?

Exposure to pollutants from the burning of non-renewable energy sources can lead to a range of health issues, from respiratory problems to heart diseases. Additionally, water contamination due to extraction processes can result in waterborne diseases.

6. Why is there employment volatility related to non-renewable energy sources?

As these energy sources become scarcer, extraction may become less economically viable, leading companies to reduce operations or shut down altogether. This can lead to significant job losses in regions dependent on these industries.

7. How do non-renewable energy sources lead to geopolitical tensions?

The global demand for particularly oil has historically led to geopolitical tensions. Countries may compete or conflict over control of oil-rich regions, resulting in wars, sanctions, or other international challenges.

8. What are the “hidden costs” of non-renewable energy sources?

The hidden costs refer to the less tangible impacts of non-renewable energy extraction and consumption. This includes the loss of biodiversity, irreversible damage to ecosystems, and cultural impacts on communities displaced by extraction projects.

9. Why is transitioning to renewable energy sources essential?

Transitioning to renewable energy is vital not only for environmental reasons but also for economic and social reasons. The true costs of non-renewable energy encompass economic volatility, environmental degradation, health impacts, and geopolitical tensions. Shifting to renewables can mitigate many of these issues.

10. Are the economic costs of non-renewable energy sources always higher than renewables?

While initial extraction and infrastructure costs of non-renewable energy might seem lower, the long-term external costs (like health impacts, environmental clean-up, and geopolitical tensions) make them costlier in the broader perspective. As renewable technologies advance, their costs continue to decrease, making them more economically competitive.

Conclusion: The True Price of Non-Renewable Energy

After immersing myself in the deep-seated intricacies of non-renewable energy and its impact on our planet, a few revelations became evident. Our reliance on non-renewable energy is not just an economic or political issue; it's a profoundly human one. Every time I switch on a light or charge my phone, I am indirectly contributing to a chain of actions that affects the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the delicate balance of our environment.

The data underscore a disheartening reality: our dependence on these finite resources is exacting an immeasurable toll, both on our health and the health of our planet. Yet, it's the hidden costs, those that aren't always immediately visible, that resonate with me the most. The loss of biodiversity, the irrevocable damage to precious ecosystems, and the cultural upheavals that displace communities – are the untold stories of our energy choices.


  1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
  2. International Energy Agency (IEA):

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Written by Dana

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