The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Renewable and Non-Renewable Sources of Energy in the UK

Editorial Team

Ultimate Guide to Understanding Renewable and Non-Renewable Sources of Energy

In today’s world, it is essential to be informed about the different sources of energy available to us. This guide will provide an in-depth understanding into the available renewable and non-renewable sources of energy in the UK. It will focus on the differences between these two sources, their advantages and disadvantages, and how the UK is making use of them.

You can also Save time and money with Business Energy Comparison and do your part. By the end of this guide, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the different sources of energy available in the UK and the associated benefits and drawbacks of each.

1. Overview of renewable and non-renewable energy sources

In the UK, there are two main categories of energy sources: renewable and non-renewable. Non-renewable sources are finite and cannot be replenished once they have been used. They include oil, coal, and nuclear power. Renewable sources, on the other hand, are renewable and will never run out, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower.

2. Renewable energy sources: hydro, solar, wind, geothermal

Renewable energy sources are a vital part of the UK’s energy mix, providing a clean and reliable source of power. There are four main types of renewable energy: hydro, solar, wind and geothermal. 

  • Hydropower is generated by capturing the energy of flowing water, typically in a dam.
  • Solar energy is generated by capturing the sun’s rays, usually through solar panels.
  • Wind energy is generated by capturing the power of the wind, usually through large turbines. Finally, geothermal energy is generated by capturing the heat from the Earth’s depths, typically through wells. 

Each of these renewable sources has its own advantages and disadvantages, and all of them play an important role in keeping the UK’s electricity supply reliable and affordable.

3. Non-renewable energy sources: gas, coal, oil, nuclear

Non-renewable energy sources are the most common sources of energy in the UK, and include gas, coal, oil, and nuclear. These sources of energy are finite and do not naturally replenish themselves. As a result, the UK will eventually run out of these sources of energy, making them unsustainable in the long-term. Consequently, non-renewable sources of energy are not a viable option for the UK in the future, as they will eventually become depleted. In addition, these sources of energy are more damaging to the environment than renewable sources, as they emit more carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

4. Impact of renewable sources on the UK economy

The UK is increasingly turning to renewable energy sources, with the government committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. Renewable sources are playing a major role in this transition, and the UK’s renewable energy industry is growing rapidly. 

The economic impact of the renewable energy sector is already substantial. It is estimated that the sector contributed £11.8 billion to the UK economy in 2020, and supported over 140,000 jobs. The sector is expected to contribute even more in the future, as the UK moves towards its net-zero target. Investment in renewable energy infrastructure is creating jobs, boosting the economy and helping to meet the UK’s climate goals.

5. Challenges of transitioning from non-renewable to renewable sources

When transitioning from non-renewable to renewable sources, one of the biggest challenges faced is that of cost. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind require an investment up front which can often be prohibitive for many. Furthermore, these sources are often subject to fluctuations in the environment, meaning that it can be difficult to guarantee a consistent supply.

Additionally, the infrastructure for renewable sources is underdeveloped in the UK, leading to the need for extensive investment in order to bring these sources up to par with non-renewable sources. The process of transitioning from non-renewable to renewable sources is often a lengthy one and can take many years to complete.

6. Government incentives to encourage renewable energy use

The UK government is encouraging the use of renewable energy sources through a number of incentives. These include the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, which enables consumers to receive payments for the electricity they produce from renewable sources; the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, which provides payments for small-scale renewable energy generators; and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which supports renewable heat technologies such as solar thermal, air and ground source heat pumps, and biomass boilers.

Furthermore, businesses may benefit from tax reliefs if they invest in renewable energy generation or energy efficiency measures. These incentives are designed to encourage the development and adoption of renewable energy sources in the UK.

7. Benefits of renewable sources

Renewable sources of energy are becoming increasingly important in the UK, as they offer a number of environmental and economic benefits. In this guide, we will explore seven of the main benefits of using renewable sources of energy. 

  1. Renewable sources of energy are much more sustainable than non-renewable sources and do not contribute to climate change.
  2. They are more cost-effective, as they are not reliant on fluctuating commodity prices.
  3. Renewable sources can provide energy security, as the UK can produce and store its own energy.
  4. Renewable sources cause less pollution and are much safer for the environment.
  5. They create jobs in the local economy.
  6. They provide an opportunity for energy independence, as the UK does not need to rely on energy imports from other countries.
  7. Renewable sources of energy are much more reliable, as they are not affected by fuel supply disruptions.

8. Challenges of renewable sources

Renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly important in the UK as the government looks to reach its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Despite this, there are still challenges associated with the use of renewable sources of energy. These include: cost, intermittency, storage capacity, grid infrastructure, land use, public opinion, and the natural environment.

As renewable sources of energy become more widely adopted, initiatives must be put in place to address these challenges. Solutions include the development of new storage technologies, the introduction of smart grids, and the implementation of incentives to encourage the uptake of renewable energy.

9. Overview of the UK energy market

The UK energy market is composed of a combination of renewable and non-renewable sources of energy. The UK’s energy system is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, which has been driven by the UK government’s commitment to combat climate change by transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

This transition has resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, as well as the phasing out of coal and other non-renewable sources of energy. This shift has resulted in an increase in the complexity of the UK’s energy market, and this section provides an overview of the current state of the UK energy market.

10. Policies and initiatives

The UK has put in place a number of policies and initiatives to promote the uptake of renewable energy sources. These include the Renewables Obligation scheme which requires energy suppliers to source a proportion of their energy from renewable sources, the Feed-in Tariff scheme which provides financial incentives for households and businesses to generate their own renewable energy, and the government’s Clean Growth Strategy which outlines the UK’s commitment to meeting its renewable energy targets.


Understanding the differences between renewable and non-renewable sources of energy is important for developing a sustainable energy system in the UK. Renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and hydro, provide a clean and reliable source of energy that is renewable. On the other hand, non-renewable sources of energy, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are finite and can cause environmental damage when burned. By using a mix of both renewable and non-renewable energy sources, the UK can ensure a secure and sustainable energy supply for years to come.