Modern Physics

Conventional energy: characteristics, types, advantages

The conventional power is that energy generated from non – renewable sources; that is, they cannot be infinitely produced or extracted from nature. In addition, conventional energies can be traded as electricity supply sources to meet huge energy demands around the world.

It is important to note that the use of conventional resources is limited and their indiscriminate use has progressively induced the scarcity of associated raw materials. Conventional energy can be supplied by two types of fuels: fossil and nuclear.

Fossil fuels are substances with high energy content present in nature in a finite way, such as coal, natural gas, oil and its derivatives (kerosene, diesel or gasoline, for example).

Nuclear fuels are materials used ​​for the generation of nuclear energy, such as fuels for nuclear research reactors or similar oxide-based ones.

Some experts include in this group renewable energy sources commonly used such as water, which is used in hydroelectric generation.


The most important characteristics of conventional energy are as follows:

– Conventional energy is produced by converting non-renewable resources into electrical energy, through the implementation of thermal, chemical or combined cycle mechanisms. If hydroelectric energy is considered to be conventional energy, the conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy must also be considered.

– The resources used in conventional power generation have a limited presence in nature. This increases exploration levels across the world.

– Due to the above point, these features are often expensive as conventional energy sources are increasingly restricted and highly valued in the market.

– Most of the time, conventional energy sources tend to be highly polluting, as the conversion process involves the emission of gases that directly affect the purity of the environment.

– This affects the increase in global warming, due to the depletion of the ozone layer and the increase in the greenhouse effect.

– Throughout history, the basic principle of conventional power generation has remained relatively constant over time.

Except for technological implementations in panel automation, start/stop mechanisms and electrical protections, the operating principle of generating plants is, in essence, the same as it was 50 years ago.

Thermal machines have also greatly improved their efficiency over the years, which has allowed them to maximize the performance obtained in energy generation processes by burning fuel.


The traditional conception of conventional energies distinguishes two large groups of non-renewable fuels: fossil fuels and nuclear fuels, the details of which are detailed below.

Energy from fossil fuel transformation

Fossil fuels are found in nature due to the action of pressure and temperature variations in biomass millions of years ago. Various transformation processes have led to the formation of these non-renewable resources with important energy properties.

The most recognized fossil fuels around the world are natural gas, coal and oil. Depending on the case, each fuel is used to generate energy through a different process.

Coal is the raw material par excellence for thermoelectric power plants. The fuel (coal, oil or natural gas) is burned and the combustion process transforms the water into steam with high levels of temperature and pressure.

The water vapor produced, if conducted at an appropriate pressure, induces movement in a turbine connected, in turn, to an electrical generator.

Energy from nuclear fuel transformation

Nuclear fuels are materials that can be used to generate nuclear energy, either in a pure state (fission) or when mixed with another component (fusion).

This type of generation occurs due to reactions that take place in the atomic nucleus of nuclear fuels. The most used nuclear fuels are plutonium and uranium.

During this process, a large part of the particle mass is transformed into energy. The energy release during nuclear conversions is approximately one million times greater than that produced in conventional chemical reactions.

In this type of conventional power generation, two types of reactions are distinguished:

Nuclear fission

It consists of the division of the heavy atomic nucleus. The rupture of the nucleus produces the emission of a powerful radiation, together with the release of an important amount of energy.

Finally, this energy is transformed into heat. This is the principle of action of most nuclear reactors around the world.

Nuclear fusion

This is the anti-fission process; that is, it is the fusion of two light atomic nuclei, which together form a heavier and more stable atomic nucleus.

Likewise, this process implies a considerably high energy release compared to conservative energy generation processes.


The most representative advantages of conventional energies are the following:

– The extraction of fossil fuels is generally relatively simple, as is the storage and transport of these materials.

– Due to the massification of these types of methods, the associated costs (extraction, infrastructure, transport) are considerably lower compared to the cost structure of alternative energy.

– Conventional energy is widely used across the planet, which has established it as a common and validated electricity generation process across the world.


The most important disadvantages of implementing this type of energy are detailed below:

– The sources of extraction of non-renewable resources ​​are increasingly limited. Measures should be taken when the scarcity of these inputs is accentuated.

– Thermoelectric plants produce emissions of polluting gases during the combustion process, such as methane and/or carbon dioxide.

– In the case of nuclear power plants, this type of process can produce radioactive waste with a high impact on humanity, if the process is not properly monitored and controlled.

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