Is Renewable Energy A Renewable Resource

is renewable energy a renewable resource

Renewable energy is defined as energy that comes from natural processes that are constantly replenished. This includes sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable resources, also referred to as renewable fuels or renewables, are naturally replenishing resources. They are virtually inexhaustible in duration but limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time, unlike non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, of which there is a finite supply. (National Geographic, 2023).

Examples of renewable resources include solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy, and biomass. These resources are considered renewable because they are naturally replenished – the sun keeps shining, the wind keeps blowing, and plants continue to grow. We cannot use up renewable resources the way we can use up non-renewable resources like oil, natural gas, and coal (Prysmian Group, n.d.).

Therefore, renewable energy and renewable resources refer to the same essential concept – energy derived from sources that are naturally replenished over time. Renewable energy utilizes renewable resources to generate power or electricity through renewable technologies.

Types of Renewable Energy

There are several major types of renewable energy sources that are used to generate electricity and heat homes and businesses. These include:

  • Solar – Solar energy comes directly from the sun and is captured through solar panels to generate electricity or heat water. Solar photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into electricity, while solar thermal collectors capture heat from the sun.1
  • Wind – Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power to run electric generators. Wind farms with many turbines in high wind areas generate utility-scale amounts of electricity.1
  • Hydroelectric – Hydropower uses flowing water to spin large turbines connected to generators. Dams on rivers or streams create reservoirs to control water flow.
  • Geothermal – Geothermal energy taps heat from under the earth’s surface to heat buildings or generate electricity. Hot water or steam from reservoirs under the ground can power electric generators.2
  • Biomass – Biomass utilizes organic plant and animal waste to produce electricity, heat, fuels, and products. Sources include wood, crops, manure, and landfill gas.1

This provides an overview of the major renewable energy sources – solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass – that are used to generate clean electricity and heat.

Characteristics of Renewable Resources

Renewable resources have several common characteristics that distinguish them from nonrenewable resources. Three of the main characteristics of renewable resources are:

  • They can be replenished naturally – Renewable resources are able to regenerate naturally over time. For example, sunlight can be captured indefinitely by solar panels, and wind power is continually replenished by natural air currents. This sets them apart from nonrenewable resources like fossil fuels, which can only be used once (Source:
  • They have an unlimited supply – Since they are continually restored by natural processes, renewable resources can be harnessed indefinitely without being depleted. They provide inexhaustible sources of energy, unlike oil and coal which exist in finite quantities and will eventually be used up (Source:
  • They reduce pollution – Most renewable energy technologies produce little to no carbon emissions or air pollutants. This makes them much cleaner alternatives compared to fossil fuels which release large amounts of greenhouse gases and toxins into the environment when burned for energy (Source:

Renewable Energy as a Renewable Resource

Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass fit the definition of renewable resources. Renewable resources are naturally replenished and can be harnessed for human use indefinitely with proper management (

The key aspect that makes renewable energy sources renewable is that they are naturally replenished on a human timescale. For example, sunlight, wind, water flows, heat from the earth’s core, and plant growth can be harnessed and will continue to be available with proper management of the resource. Fossil fuels on the other hand are finite and non-renewable.

Using renewable energy sources to generate electricity, heat homes, or power transportation is sustainable over long periods of time. As long as the sun shines, the wind blows, and the rivers flow, we can harness renewable energy indefinitely into the future with the right technology and infrastructure.

Advantages of Renewable Energy Sources

Using renewable energy sources has several key advantages over traditional fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. First and foremost, renewable energy is clean and sustainable. Sources like solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution when harnessed, unlike burning fossil fuels which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. This helps combat climate change and improve public health. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the use of renewable energy prevented the release of 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2019 alone 1. Renewable energy also does not require mining or drilling of finite resources that will eventually be depleted. It can be harnessed continually as long as the resource is available, like sunshine or wind.

Transitioning to renewable sources provides energy independence by reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration found that American imports of petroleum have dropped significantly as renewable electricity generation has expanded over the past decade 2. Locally available renewables like solar or wind mean that communities don’t have to depend on purchasing fuels from other countries. This also strengthens national security.

Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

While renewable energy has many benefits, there are also some disadvantages to be aware of. Two major drawbacks are the high upfront costs and the intermittent supply.

Most renewable energy infrastructure like wind turbines, solar panels, and geothermal plants require large initial investments to build and install (Source). Even though ongoing costs are lower than fossil fuels, the high upfront costs can deter adoption, especially in developing nations.

Another downside is that renewable energy output depends on environmental conditions that fluctuate. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, so the energy supply can be intermittent (Source). This can cause reliability issues unless adequate energy storage is in place.

Global Growth

The global growth of renewable energy capacity and investment has increased substantially over the past decade. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy capacity grew by over 60% between 2014 and 2019 to over 2,500 GW, with solar PV capacity experiencing average annual growth of over 40% during this period ( The growth has been enabled by falling technology costs as well as supportive policies and investments around the world. Global investment in renewable power capacity hit record levels in 2019, reaching over $300 billion according to IEA data. Key growth markets include China, the United States, and Europe, which together make up over 75% of global renewable capacity additions.

Future Outlook

The future outlook for renewable energy is one of continued growth and potential to meet rising global energy demands. Renewable energy capacity is projected to expand rapidly in the coming decades. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewables are set to account for 90% of global power capacity growth in the next 5 years 1. Wind and solar power will lead this growth, with global wind power capacity projected to increase by 57% and solar PV capacity expected to expand by 35% by 2024 1.

The continued falling costs of renewable energy technologies, combined with supportive government policies, are driving this projected growth. Renewables are becoming increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels, making the economic case for transitioning energy systems to renewables. Countries around the world are setting ambitious renewable energy targets to help mitigate climate change and ensure energy security. According to IRENA projections, renewables have the potential to supply over 50% of global electricity by 2030 and meet over 60% of global energy-related CO2 emission reduction needs in support of the Paris Agreement 2.

While fossil fuels will continue to play a role in the global energy mix, renewables are positioned to become the mainstream source of energy generation in the coming decades. With supportive policies and sustained investments, renewable energy can unlock a sustainable energy future.


While renewable energy adoption is rapidly increasing globally, there are still some key challenges that need to be addressed (Source). Three major challenges are energy storage, transmission infrastructure, and policy support.

Energy storage is a challenge because many renewable sources like solar and wind are intermittent – they only generate power when the sun is shining or wind is blowing. Large scale energy storage solutions like batteries are needed to store excess renewable power for use when generation is low. Developing affordable and scalable grid-level storage is vital (Source).

Transmission infrastructure also needs major upgrades to handle the influx of renewable power and deliver it from source to end users. As renewable sources are often located far from population centers, major investments are required in high-voltage transmission lines and “smart grid” technologies to manage a more complex grid (Source).

Finally, continued policy support is essential to drive further renewable adoption. Government incentives like feed-in tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, tax credits and rebates are key enablers. Consistent long-term policy support is crucial to provide investor confidence in capital intensive renewable projects with long payback periods (Source).


In summary, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass offer significant advantages as renewable resources. They are continually replenished, reducing dependence on finite fossil fuels. Renewable energy production is increasing globally to combat climate change and meet rising energy demands in a sustainable way. While renewable resources face challenges like intermittency and high upfront costs, they offer energy security, environmental benefits, and long-term economic competitiveness. As technology improves and costs decline, renewable energy will play a critical role as a renewable resource in building sustainable energy systems worldwide.

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