“Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” is the definition of SDG 7 (“Sustainable Development Goals,” n.d.) and it is essential to move forward and change for better countries, communities, economies and of course, the planet.
Energy is one of the most important challenges that the world faces today to increase income, create more jobs, and take action towards climate change.
Having this in mind, even though access to electricity grew 90% in 2019, 759 million people still do not have access to it (Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report, 2021) with 548 million of those in sub-Saharan Africa alone (Mowery, 2021).
In other words, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the largest number of unelectrified people in the world, being Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia the three countries in which this issue is more widespread (Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report, 2021).
One of the many consequences of the lack of energy is that people spend a lot of time fetching water, gathering tinder and supplies and tending to cookstoves. In addition, air pollution delivered from combustible fuel use for household energy caused 4.3 million deaths in 2012, women being most of the victims (Mowery, 2021).
A worldwide problem
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has broken down the total emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States by economic sector. The results show that transportation is the largest contributor at 28%, followed by electricity and industry, respectively 27% and 22% (Mowery, 2021).
In industries, the emissions are correlated with the consumption of fossil fuels for both energy and production, chemical reactions during the process of production of iron, steel, cement and leaks from natural gas and petroleum systems (Mowery, 2021).
Therefore, even though fossil fuels enabled the growth of industries, they came together with the degradation of the environment and consequently being responsible for several climate changes.
On top of that, the impact of the COVID-19 threatens the progress to achieve SDG 7 in some parts of the world. The pandemic stood out the social differences related to access to reliable energy, especially in rural and peri-urban areas (Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report, 2021). These circumstances have shown the urgency of expanding energy access to help the population overcome the effects of the crisis.
Moreover, the implementation of clean and safe fuels also contributes to health and life quality. Therefore, there is a crucial need for companies, national and local governments to make renewable energy technologies accessible to all.
Targets towards SDG 7
As a result of this reality, the United Nations has established 5 targets towards SDG 7 (Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report, 2021).
- Universal access to electricity: this means global access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services, especially electricity.
- Clean cooking solutions: relying on polluting fuels and inefficient technologies will have dramatic consequences for the environment, economic development and health, most notably in women and children.
- Renewable energy: it is characterized as a significant increase in the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
- Energy efficiency: it aims to increase the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 to 2.6% per year.
- International public financial flows: it is responsible for measuring international financial flows to developing countries in support of renewable energy.
Many of these goals are indeed the responsibility of the national government to implement. Nonetheless, a business can still contribute to SDG 7 to show engagement in achieving sustainability even on a smaller scale.
For this reason, GründerAtelier provides valuable examples for entrepreneurs to join the effort towards the achievement of affordable and clean energy. Furthermore, with small actions in everyday life, employees can also do their part to contribute to a more sustainable environment.
What can companies do to help the achievement of SDG 7
Having in mind that the private sector is responsible for approximately two-thirds of the world’s electricity demand, businesses are in a key position to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy systems.
Understandably, this change needs a long-term strategy that depends on market maturity within the different nations. In addition, clean energy still has to face some challenges like regulatory and technological barriers.
For this reason, public commitments should be made to promote renewables and ensure that these barriers will not stop organizations.
In this case, these commitments are made in the form of time-based, public pledges focusing on achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050. The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance can be also included as another example of corporations collaboratively and publicly advocating a demand for clean energy technologies.
Energy efficiency is related to business cost and because of that, should be prioritized by corporations. Therefore, it is really important for companies and to accelerate the shift to 100% renewable energy, to develop long-term renewable strategies aiming to improve renewable energy technology and cost declines.
Source: Mace (n.d.).
Best practices that companies can do to achieve SDG 7
In the list below you will find a list of practices that entrepreneurs can apply in their business to help the achievement of SDG 7.
- Before choosing affordable and clean energy, first research which is the best option according to the business location.
- Remote work is a good alternative to reduce energy demand.
- Provide special parking places for employees who have electric cars and incentivize the use of public transportation to encourage the reduction in fossil demand and emissions.
- Invest in further renewable energy research and development, together with an analysis of how your business can benefit local communities by increasing the commerce of clean energy.
- Explore where your products/ services can benefit rural communities in developing countries.
Sources: Mace (n.d) and Mowery (2021).
On top of the practices mentioned above, companies can also invest in reliable energy options. Even though it is necessary to make a bigger plan and consider some points like the companies’ budget, this is necessary to become closer to SDG 7.
Reliable energy options
This technology can use solar or wind energy or other sustainable sources. On-site renewables allow us to produce energy at the same time of use, reducing operating costs, receiving in some cases tax credits and contributing to the supply of energy for the community (Mowery, 2021).
However, it is important to highlight that some points need to be taken into consideration. One of them is that the market maturity of each technology may vary from country to country, therefore this can affect the viability to install on-site solutions.
Another factor is the need to analyze the company budget before investing in on-site renewable energy and if it will be possible to have staff responsible for maintaining the systems operating properly.
Even though it is necessary to have some upfront costs, having this on-site renewable technology will significantly reduce the company’s productions and operations emissions. In other words, it will be long-term savings.
As the name suggests, in this case, the renewable energy generator is located “off-site”. For this reason, the electricity generated is delivered to the grid first and then distributed to the company premises in the same way regular power is delivered (Albert, 2018).
This technology has the limitation of being dependent on the proximity to the transmission lines, which determines overall cost and availability (Mowery, 2021). In addition, as the energy still goes through the grid, the company still has to pay the distribution and electricity costs.
Therefore, it is necessary to consider the proximity to the renewable energy supplier and if the off-site renewables fulfil the business sustainability goals.
Affordable and clean energy companies to take inspiration from
Besides the actions mentioned above that every company should apply, there are companies committed to increasing the accessibility of affordable and clean energy. Therefore, they are making moves to solve SDG 7 related issues.
Here, we will list some of these startups so every entrepreneur can take inspiration from them.
Bandora Systems is a Portuguese startup that develops autonomous building operation solutions using AI, machine learning and IoT.
They predict the energy consumption, indoor temperature, comfort level, occupancy and malfunctions through the use of AI.
Based in Indonesia, Inecosolar is a startup that designs, sources and installs solar PV systems for residential and commercial establishments.
They allow users to trade excess electricity produced in rooftop solar installations with the existing grid. Furthermore, they also provide battery storage options to be used at home in case of a power failure.
SALT Energy Group
SALT Energy Group is an American startup that develops power generation sites by employing multiple generation technologies.
The plan is to take industrial facilities primarily off-line with the electrical grid actions as a backup. With this technology it is possible not only to save money but also to increase the security of their infrastructure. The company produces energy using solar, geothermal and combined-cycle fuel cell energy technologies. On top of that, they create small Combined Heat and Power (CHP) facilities in the northeast corridor.
Based in Spain, this startup develops a suite of energy as a service (EaaS) solutions for domestic and industrial purposes.
Elivere Solar offers installations of solar energy equipment, monitor, track and also analyze solar power generation consumption. They have solutions like solar-powered lighting to large-scale PV power plants that make it possible to trade the excess or stored energy back to the grid. The company also has EV charging facilities for public and private spaces and irrigation services for integrated utility parks.
Source: “32 Energy Technology Startups Accelerating Affordable & Clean Energy” (n.d).
How can you incorporate the use of renewable energy into your daily life
Apart from the practices that companies can do to achieve SDG 7 we all can do a little bit more to use more affordable and clean energy.
There are many changes we can make in our everyday lives to reduce the use of fossil fuels and use more and more affordable and clean energy. Some of these actions can seem simple and insignificant, however, they will make a significant difference in the environment.
So, here goes a list of things each one of us can do in our daily lives to become closer to achieve the SDG 7 goals.
- If you can not afford electric cars, you still have the option to use public transport (or even walk) instead of driving. If you do not have this option, you can choose to use bioethanol to power your car. Bioethanol comes from renewable sources such as crops and it is a good alternative for petrol.
- Give preference to solar-powered lights. This way you avoid lights being unnecessarily used. In addition, you save energy as they use an alternative of power when they are used.
- At home use solar and wind power. The energy from the sun can be used to heat houses, heat water and it can also be used to power applications. At the same time, installing wind turbines at home, when it is possible depending on the location, can help to reduce energy consumption and consequently reduce energy bills.
- Avoid purchasing drinks that come in plastic bottles. This is because producing plastic bottles eats into our petroleum and natural gas resources at a faster rate.
- Do not leave your heating on when it is not needed. Try to turn it on for a couple of hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening, this way you will save a lot of energy.
- Create less waste. Creating less waste will reduce process and energy consumption and therefore, it can reduce Co2 emissions.
Source: “Uses of Renewable Energy in Daily Life” (2019).
GründerAtelier’s Impact Accelerator
This was the sixth article of our SDGs series, which aims to make the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals easy to put into practice for startups and entrepreneurs, in general.
If you are in charge or work for an impact-related startup that supports one or multiple SDGs you can apply to our Impact Accelerator where we will guide you through the journey to become investment-ready and, then, introduce you to our VC partners.
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Albert, B. (2018). How do I compare the value of onsite versus on-site renewables for my business? Retrieved from 100% Renewables website: https://100percentrenewables.com.au/value-onsite-v-offsite-renewables/. Accessed on 13/08/21.
Mace, M. (n.d.). SDG Spotlight : How business can achieve Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. Sustainable Development Goals, 4–11. Retrieved from https://www.ecohz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2019-SDG-edie-sdg-spotlight-goal-7.pdf. Accessed on 16/08/21.
Mowery, L. (2021). SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy: How to Adopt It Into Your Business. Green Business Bureau, 1–15. Retrieved from https://greenbusinessbureau.com/topics/sdg/sdg-7-affordable-and-clean-energy-how-to-adopt-it-into-your-business/. Accessed on 16/08/21.
Sustainable Development Goals. (n.d.). United Nations, 4. Retrieved from https://sdgs.un.org/goals. Accessed on 12/08/21.
Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report. (2021). Retrieved from https://trackingsdg7.esmap.org/data/files/download-documents/2021_tracking_sdg7_report.pdf. Accessed on 17/08/21.
Uses of Renewable Energy in Daily Life. (2019). Trvst, 1–15. Retrieved from https://www.trvst.world/renewable-energy/uses-of-renewable-energy-in-daily-life/. Accessed on 16/08/21.