Non Renewable Energy Resources

Non-renewable energy resources are resources that eventually run out. They include:

  • Coal
  • Oil
  • Gas
  • Nuclear energy

Coal, oil and gas are all examples of fossil fuels. Coal is made from the remains of dead plants that have been fossilised. In contrast, oil and gas are made from the fossilised remains of dead sea creatures over millions of years.

These fossil fuels form over millions of years, which means that once we’ve used them all, we will not be able to replace them. This is why they are called non-renewable resources.

Power stations

We can use non-renewable resources in power stations to generate electricity by burning the fuels.

Generating electricity requires a force to turn a turbine. This, in turn, spins the generator, producing electricity. The electricity is then transmitted across the National Grid to households.

The diagram below shows how power stations work.

1. Fossil fuel power stations/plants burn fuel, which could be coal, oil or gas.

2. The burning fuel heats up water, turning it into steam (water vapour).

3. This steam then turns the turbine.

4. The turbine is connected to the generator, which will generate electricity.

So remember:

Burn fuel ⮕ Steam ⮕ Turbine ⮕ Generator

The electricity generated will then be transmitted across the national grid, to millions of homes.

Nuclear power plant

If this was a nuclear plant instead, then the process would be similar. However, you wouldn’t need to heat the nuclear material.

1. In a nuclear power station, nuclear reactions generate heat that heats up the water.

2. The heated water turns to steam.

3. The steam turns the turbine.

4. The turbine is connected to the generator, which will generate electricity.

So the process will be:

Nuclear reactions ⮕ Steam ⮕ Turbine ⮕ Generator

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels


  • It’s a cost-effective way to generate large amounts of energy
  • Locating fossil fuels is relatively easy
  • They have become safer over time
  • As technology improves, more fossil fuel reserves can be reached


  • Fossil fuels are non-renewable, which means new sources are harder to reach.
  • When fossil fuels burn, they release carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
  • Oil spills can severely damage the environment
  • Mining can be dangerous
  • When fossil fuels burn, they release solid particulates, which contribute to global dimming.

You’ve used 0 of your 10 free revision notes for the month

Sign up to get unlimited access to revision notes, quizzes, audio lessons and more

Sign up