#39 SDG 7 Affordable clean energy worthy of having subsidies

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Image by United Nations

The topic of having affordable clean energy may not immediately be of interest to all but interestingly we are collectively unable to function in this fast pace world without energy. It is therefore a very simple leap to make for energy to be both affordable and clean. This assumption is not necessarily held up or shared by all and in this Consequences Blog #39 I am keen to demonstrate yet again how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play a big part in our everyday life. In addition being conscious of the SDGs and alignment of the macro with the micro is an important step in our collective future.

The topic of energy and particularly the assumption that surely everyone would want it to be affordable and clean is unfortunately at the political level not a shared one. In no way is the Consequences Blog taking a political stance, as my intention is to be eternally ‘A political’. I do argue that energy requires ‘bi partisan alignment’. An article titled Plea to politicians on energy: stop the brawling expressed clearly how the topic of energy and particularly what defines affordable and clean energy tends to be a political ‘hot potato’. In the worse case scenario energy and particularly clean energy is used to gain or loose political votes.

In considering excessive definitions and debates across the topic of clean energy a common shaping of this debate is filtered through the topic of costs. In this I refer to a gathering of facts presented in Fact Check Q&A: is coal still cheaper than renewables as an energy source? This article provides a series of arguments that represent the various political angles that are often taken for the debate of renewable energy. The relevance of it being affordable is also in debate and as shown in a cleanish energy target gets us nowhere it is considered that clean energy targets on their own are simply not enough.

I find this line of argument interesting and suggest it further supports the need for alignment within and across the SDGs. If a problem like lack of energy is a challenge for all then finding the ways to have a positive impact at both a local and global level must represent time and energy well spent (excuse the pun).

Yet again the statement of ‘doing things as we have always done’ becomes prevalent and reinforces the inadequacies of the status quo. After all with energy at some point in time and particularly around fossil fuels they will be depleted. Do we wait until that point in time or use targets as part of the warning and/or preventative time line to enable change and particularly for the benefit of the end-user- us!

Recently in Australia the end-user was presented as the customer and became a heightened topic of the political debate over energy. The prime minister of Australia (Turnbull) was noted instructing power companies to do so Turnbull to tell power companies: do better by customers. Although the debate was heavily centered around price and affordability the issue of energy being clean or renewable continued to impact on decisions and particularly whether targets can or cannot be met. I find this quite a distraction at a point in time in history where the 17 SDGs (with target 7 simply being one of 16 others) have been widely agreed. More importantly the reason this dialogue is being given serious attention is due to negative trajectories increasing at an alarming pace. This being clearly demonstrable particularly in the energy scenario to me makes the time being put into the fossil fuel vs renewable energy debate to be nothing but futile.

This debate and situation is not unique to Australia and can be evidenced in many other countries across the globe. At risk of making a sweeping statement possibly one of the best comparisons is in the UK where arguments outlined in articles such as electricity is a rip off – we need a truly radical intervention in the energy market. In this article an example is shown how the tension between fossil fuel and renewable energy has simply taken the ‘eye off the real ball’. Instead the focus of the debate should be placed on creating an intervention to suit contemporary needs rather than historical approaches.

In considering a closer to home argument Australia’s electricity market is not agile and innovative enough to keep us. In this article a view is put forward that the debate around energy is a limiting one in Australia and in its current form simply not ‘fit for purpose’. The importance of renewable energy in this debate is best evidence through solar power. In a report claiming Solar is now the most popular form of new electricity generation worldwide it was noted how Australia must consider increasing solar if it is to meet the Paris pledge of the global goals.

The Global clean energy scorecard puts Australia 15th in the world and when put into context this means being in the lower end of the wealthy countries. By any persons measure this is not good enough and heightens the collective personal responsibility for Target 7. Unfortunately sharing the load for this responsibility can be quite un-balanced with further research having recently been completed on the difference of affordable energy of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This was presented in an article titled poor households are locked out of green energy, unless governments help.

With a desire to clearly share the global goals and how they impact us all in our everyday personal and professional lives I propose that Target 7 is quite pivotal to this debate. As consumers the type of energy that is purchased we have complete control over. As voters the preferred legislations for affordable and clean energy can be demanded. There is limited time to wait for these responsibilities to be picked up by another generation. The time is now and it begins with each one of us!



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