One of the most exciting aspects of the Global Goals is their interconnectedness. Previously, the multiple areas of development have been treated rather separately within their own categories. Now, however, we have a way to explore how social, environmental and economic development are all related to one another. This year, we are exploring how each goal and their associated targets need to see the achievement of each other in order to be fulfilled as a whole.
Goal 7 aims to provide energy which is not only affordable and clean but also reliable to citizens all around the world, and Goal 8 aims to ensure everyone has the ability to find decent employment which in a safe and supportive workplace to protect them from living in poverty and to ensure that the economy continues to grow to support sustained development into the future.
In Australia, the topic of the economic impact of clean energy is hotly debated. According to The Australia Institute, a gradual phase-out of coal, a type of non-renewable and ‘dirty’ energy, would only have a minimal impact on the national economy. However, it would severely impact regions where the primary employer for locals and driver of the local economy is a coal plant or multiple coal plants.
In saying this, there are ways to plan for the closing down of coal plants by creating jobs in sustainable companies in the area. An excellent example of this is Sundrop Farms. When Alinta’s coal-fired power station in Port Augusta shut-down, many people were out of work. That is when Philipp Saumwebber expanded his tomato farm to a $175 million state-of-the-art example of sustainable agriculture in practice. The farm now provides employment for over 150 locals.
While it is important to continue to grow the economy, it is vital that we ensure we are developing with environmental sustainability in mind to ensure there are no long-term negative effects of our actions which would impact living conditions years into the future.
Additionally, according to research conducted by the Australian National University, the levellised cost of energy (LCOE) of coal is actually higher than that of renewables. The LCOE of coal provided by the research was $80/MWh (with some estimates putting the figure as much higher). This was compared to $64/MWh for wind and $78/MWh for solar. The cost of both of these technologies are forecast to fall to approximately $50/MWh over the coming years. This is due to the low cost of building with the capital cost of rooftop solar priced at $1,075 per kilowatt and large-scale solar priced at $1,342 per kilowatt. Wind is priced at approximately $2,693 per kilowatt. Conversely, the capital cost of coal is approximately $3,351 per kilowatt.
While there may be concerns about the economic impact of switching to clean and renewable energy, there is growing evidence in the environmental revolution’s economic favour. However, it is important that when planning for this transition, we are building for the future, which means ensuring we are able to provide alternative employment for locals in affected areas.