oikos Vienna

students for sustainable economics and management

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

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Overall, one could say that energy usage and consumption are linked to their prices. Energy prices are to a wide extent interconnected and as a result usually when one energy production source experiences price increases other energy sources also increase. This fact explains some kind of positive correlation between different energy sources, which can be observed while analyzing the historical data and complex interactions of the coal gas and oil markets. Energy prices are very volatile and do not necessarily only depend on demand and supply but also on political and economic decisions. As such, energy prices are complex and dependent on a wide variety of politico-economic determinants.

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Innovation is a major point while evaluating potential climate change mitigation solutions. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the boom of agriculture activities, population explosion and the massive development of machines humanity has made itself dependent on energy usage to increase productivity, sustain growth and produce wealth. Ever since that time, energy intensive production systems in developed and developing countries have become indispensable. This explains an excessive overdependence on a limited amount of technology sources to satisfy energy demand used for transportation, production and consumption. Thus, oil, coal, natural gas and conventional fossil fuels represent an accessible, convenient and already well known source of energy at currently rather low prices. This, low price energy tendency leads to an overall increasing energy consumption and an excessive reliability on fossil fuels. As a result of globalization the world is getting flatter, population is growing faster than ever before and specially in developing countries exponential growth rates are becoming a trend. Thus, worldwide wealth and growth is mainly being created by means of unsustainable and resource intensive economic activities.

This myopic growth generation will have detrimental consequences in the long-run for generations to come on both the private and institutional levels. In recent times, climate change externalities are becoming more obvious and salient and there is supporting evidence that humankind is pretty much accountable for the exacerbated atmospheric CO2 stocks.

Nevertheless, it seems to be little international commitment and coordination of actions despite the big threat that these externalities pose on society as a whole. Climate change mitigation attempts should be coordinated on a worldwide scale, as its consequences will affect us all regardless of where CO2 emissions are being generated today. In fact, many regions contributing by very little to atmospheric CO2 stocks are already experiencing life-threatening environmental conditions and more evident consequences will follow if humanity continues to misuse the earth’s resources.

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© Petya Boyadzhieva, Unsplash

Some of the hitherto proposed solutions involve carbon taxes, CO2 emission trading systems, carbon capture technologies, emission restrictions and alternative energy sources such as wind, solar hydropower and geothermal energy generation. Thus, we see that there is no silver bullet in dealing with climate change and its effects. Innovation, as well as regulations, are indeed major determinants in climate change mitigation attempts.

Nonetheless, green inventions are not likely to develop if there are not the right incentives in place and countries across the world do not show joint commitment towards more environmental friendly practices.

In light of the big climate change dilemma there seems to be little increase in the incentives to innovate. Some renewables such as solar and wind energy have become very competitive and prices in production are constantly decreasing (IRENA, 2012). However, as it is widely known energy can not be so easily storaged for latter use and this represents a disadvantage when compared to conventional fossil fuel intensive energy sources (Wile, 2013). Innovation is a potential solution and can be applied in a variety of areas. No economic sector is exempted of innovation potential. As such it can be linked to energy efficiency techniques in buildings, transportation and the industrial sector, carbon capture technologies and even to improvements in agriculture and food production techniques.

Believe it or not today roughly 20% per cent of the world’s population still do not have access to electricity as we do in more developed nations. Some other societies have very unreliable energy supply systems and suffer from malfunctioning transportation and communication systems. In 2012 around 700 million people were affected in India due to a massive, nationwide electricity blackout, paralyzing transportation and communication systems that led to several complications and a considerable number of fatalities. This disaster was due to mismanagement and their underdeveloped energy infrastructure.

© Jason Blackeye, Unslpash

© Jason Blackeye, Unsplash

In light of this problem and due to the obvious and eminent energy inequalities on the global context the United Nations proposed its seven SDG goal. It aims at providing affordable and clean energy to societies around the globe. In 2011 about 20% of the global power generation was given by renewable energy sources. Nonetheless, there is a need to increase the share of energy derived from renewable sources as demand continues to increase and population further grows. Even though the situation has improved, coal still provides about 40 per cent of the world’s electricity and represents a threat to public health and ecological conditions. Natural gas and light fuel oil are other two main C02 contributing energy sources, and given current price trends societies are becoming more and more reliant on this kind of energy sources.

Thus, shifting from conventional to cleaner energy sources requires commitment from both the private and public sectors. Governments should develop the right incentives to increase renewables’ profitability and competitiveness to conventional energy sources. The targets of the seventh SDG goal relate to granting universal clean energy access to fair prices. Furthermore, the plan aims at expanding the scope of renewable energy sources and make them a basic choice in the global energy mix. Furthermore, it focusses on increasing energy standards and efficiency. Developed countries should help developing and emerging countries by providing knowhow and the needed technologies to speed up this clean energy transition. It is true that developed countries did reach their current economic growth and wealth by making use of fossil fuels. However, having the right technologies in place and through coordinated and joint international cooperation there is hope to create a complete new sector that will lead to more environmental friendly energy generation and consumption.
The UNIDO has several projects across the world to help developing countries make their first steps towards more sustainable activities. For instance, in Bolivia the UNIDO promotes the use of solar energy for food production. This initiative not only helped local farmers to reduce their CO2 emissions, but also led to an overall reduce in costs and substantial knowledge gains about solar energy by locals. In Mozambique the UNIDO has developed technical cooperation programs to provide access to more environmental friendly technologies. In this way, the organisation provides training and assistance on energy efficiency, optimization of activities, material water and waste management.

The European Commission developed an initiative to contribute to climate change mitigation activities and ensure that its member states meet their climate C02 targets by 2020. The proposed Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) consist on the following activities: Investing in energy efficiency buildings and infrastructure as well as the refurbishment of already existent buildings. More intensive investments in green energy generation, civil society participation, sustainable public and private transportation policies, businesses and individual’s conscious energy use and a more efficient land use and urban planning.

On the individual level contributions can also be made to create a more conscious energy consumption. A handful of individual initiatives can be undertaken on a daily basis to reduce our energy usage. Shut down your computer whenever you don’t use it and be sure to always unplug your chargers. Choose the right lights and create the habit to turn them off whenever you do not need them. Inform yourself about green power providers in your city. Ride your bike to work or take public transport instead of going by car. Use your household appliances efficiently and adjust your thermostat to the outside temperature.

 

by Luis

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