SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy – Why it is Important for businesses in Australia

For many in the built environment, the conversation around sustainability is limited to carbon and energy; it is assumed that sustainability equates solely with environmental concerns. However, the UN SDGs provide a far more complete framework of sustainability which includes environmental concerns but also equally highlights social and economic imperatives. We will be highlighting one of the 17 SDGs every week and relating it to how your business can help achieve these goals. 

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Next up in this series is SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. First of all, this SDG will quickly be explained by highlighting three of its targets. 

Target 7.1

Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services. This target focuses on the proportion of the population with access to electricity and their reliance on clean fuels and technology. This means that fuels and technology used for cooking, heating and lighting have the carbon monoxide (CO) levels recommended in the WHO global air quality guidelines. Australia is doing really well on this target with a score of 100%. 

Target 7.2

Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. This target still needs a lot of work since renewable energy is under 10% of the total final energy consumption in Australia. 

Target 7.3

Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency. A product or service is energy efficient if it does not use more energy than necessary during the use or production.  

Affordable and Clean Energy in Australia

Australia exports about 81% of its energy production, which includes coal and liquefied natural gas exports. This makes Australia the world’s second largest exporter of coal by weight. And with Australia’s federal and state governments having approved new mine developments, its coal production is only going to increase further. This information comes from a report from the Medical Journal of Australia, which called Australia’s transition to renewables and zero carbon remains ‘unacceptably slow’. 

However, Australia’s population is ready for a transition towards renewable energy. A poll from the Climate Council shows that half of the population in Central Queensland agree regional areas will benefit most from a transition towards renewables. Central Queensland is Australia’s engine room and has the biggest coal mines in the country. This shows how much the population wants to prioritise the transition towards renewable energy, even in regions heavily dependent on the coal industry. 

Another way on how Australia can make a big impact is with energy efficiency. Increasing energy efficiency directly reduces the emissions created by activities like manufacturing, heating and cooling in buildings, and vehicle operation. Australia needs to improve its energy efficiency, Australia is ranked 18th out of the 25 largest economies for its performance on adopting and implementing energy efficient technologies and standards. Australian building standards, or the “National Construction Code” (NCC), ensure there is a minimum level of insulation and design requirements for new residences. However, landlords lack incentives to install energy efficient appliances and components in their rental properties. With renters being almost 31% percent of the households, this can be an opportunity for positive impact.

Links with other SDGs

To make an impact on affordable and clean energy in Australia is more extensive than you think when you consider the relation with the other SDGs and your impact in these areas.  

  • SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth: Renewable energy and energy efficiency reduce costs 
  • SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities: The transition towards renewable energy help realise sustainable cities 
  • SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production: This includes taking green energy and energy efficiency into account.   
  • SDG 13: Climate Action: 27% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emission comes from electricity 

What can you do?

As an individual you can take small actions to make an impact on SDG 7, here are some examples;

  • Buy products and services with a high Energy Rating 
  • Choose a green energy supplier. Check out The Green Electricity Guide by Greenpeace 
  • Be conscious of your energy use, turn off the light and appliances when you are not at home 
  • Transport continues to be the largest consumer of energy in Australia. Make use of public transport when possible or think about EV alternatives 

Your home makes one of the biggest impacts on energy cosumption. You could consider; 

  • Improving the efficiency through adding insulation or double glazing your windows. 
  • Buying certified green energy 
  • Installig rooftop solar (saves money and the planet) 

What can your business do?

Businesses in the built environment can make a positive impact with the design, construction and management of new and renovated buildings. In addition to their own business activities, the building industry can make a huge impact if it builds with sustainable alternatives. This will not only have a positive impact on the environment and residents, but reduce operational costs. 

Here are some examples of actions your business can take to make a positive impact on SDG 7. 

  • Measure, monitor and reduce your energy consuption 
  • Commit to sourcing 100% of operational electricity needs from renewable sources. 
  • Reduce the internal demand for transport by prioritising telecommunications and incentivize less energy intensive modes such as train travel over auto and air travel. 
  • Prioritise energy efficiency across operations with the use of energy efficient equipment 
  • Install renewable energy technology  
  • Install energy efficient plant and equipment with a high energy rating  

Ensure buildings you design, construct or manage are 

  • Efficient (at leaset 7 star NatHERS) 
  • Include energy storage and generation if possible 
  • Have efficient appliances 
  • Are all electric, see Rewiring Australia for more informations 

What does sustainable development mean to you?

Do you want to know how your business can make an impact towards a sustainable future and help work towards the end of hunger in Australia?

Our Ready Reckoner self-assessment will help you understand how you can be the change you want to see.

Further reading

Tracking SDG 7 Australia

SDG Compass 

Energy Rating

The Green Electricity Guide

Medical Journal of Australia

Climate Council

Energy Facts Australia – Energy Efficiency 

Rewiring Australia 

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