Sustainable Development Goals and Renewable Energy

Solar power plant

One of the questions asked about renewable energy is whether it can replace fossil fuels. Some think that it can, while others claim that it is unreliable, and therefore unable to substitute traditional sources. However, amid all the debate, one thing is clear- renewable energy will help nations achieve the UN sustainable development goals.  

What is Sustainable Development and the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Sustainable development is the ability to meet the needs of an existing population without undermining the capability of future generations to do the same. This can be achieved through the responsible use of natural resources and the preservation of ecosystems, among other ways.

On the other hand, the UN sustainable development goals are a shared blueprint for achieving a sustainable future to be realized between the year 2015 and 2030. They are 17 goals in total, and are meant to address issues facing the world today and that pose a threat to future generations.

How Renewable Energy Will help Nations Achieve Sustainable Development Goals

Renewable energy will play a role in the achievement of the following sustainable development goals:

  • Goal 3: Good health and well-being
  • Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • Goal 13: Climate action

Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

Air pollution, due to burning of fossil fuels, is one of the main causes of diseases and deaths. This is because unclean air contains harmful particles that cause cancer, respiratory diseases, and heart diseases, among others. According to the UN, polluted air lead to about 7 million deaths each year.   

Renewable energy will help nations address the issue, and so contribute to good health and wellbeing.

Unlike fossil fuels, renewable sources of energy do not release toxic particles into the atmosphere. Therefore, by choosing to invest more in renewable energy, nations will no longer depend on fossil fuels. This will reduce or prevent air pollution, thereby decreasing cases of related diseases and deaths.

Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Millions of households in developing nations do not have electricity. They depend on traditional sources such as firewood, charcoal, and kerosene, which are not clean. Those with electrical power also struggle due to the high cost of the commodity.

Renewable energy can improve the lives of these households by giving them access to affordable and clean energy.

Clean energy

The main advantages of renewables sources are the fact that they are free and cannot be exhausted. This helps to reduce operation costs, though the initial costs can be quite high. The price of each unit of energy supplied then becomes low, making it affordable.

Renewable power such as that from the sun and wind can be generated at any suitable location. This can benefit millions of households located in remote areas far from the grid.

Solar and wind power plants can be set up in these secluded locations. They can then be used to supply electricity to the locals. The excess energy can also be fed into the national grid, giving the rest of the population access to cheap and clean energy.

Homeowners can also choose to generate their own power by installing solar home systems.   

Therefore, governments that will invest in renewable power will realize the targets set in the seventh sustainable development goal.  

Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Among the challenges faced by developing countries are power shortages and a high cost of electricity. Such factors discourage entrepreneurs and investors from taking advantage of the available economic opportunities. This, in turn, prevents the creation of new jobs.

People are then left to compete for a few employment opportunities. This allows employers to exploit and manipulate desperate job-seeker. They offer them low-pay and fail to provide decent working conditions.

The lack of enough power also lowers production by existing companies. Most of them are forced to run for a few hours when they should be operating for 24 hours. Others choose to run for a few hours to avoid high electricity bills.

Such problems make it difficult for companies to compete locally and internationally. This, in turn, limits economic growth.

Renewable energy will play an influential role in addressing these challenges. First, renewable power plants will increase the generating capacity of a nation. This will provide enough power for existing and new businesses, thereby attracting investors and entrepreneurs.

Secondly, it will reduce the cost of electricity, making it profitable to operate a business.

The favorable business environment will lead to the growth of existing industries and the emergence of new ones. This will then contribute to the growth of the economy.   

The growth of businesses and the emergence of new industries will also create new job opportunities. Employers will even be forced to compete for the available talent in the labor market. All these will contribute to the availability of decent work.

Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action

Sustainable development goals

Global warming is the primary cause of climate change. The phenomenon is caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that ends up trapping heat from the sun. One of the gases is carbon dioxide, which is released during the burning of fossil fuels.   

Dealing with the gas can, therefore, help reduce global warming and fight climate change. One of the ways this can achieved is through the increased use of renewable energy. The practice will reduce the burning of fossil fuels, a process that emits the undesirable gas. This will then play a role in limiting global warming to 1.5ºC as recommended by the IPCC.

Therefore, nations that put renewable sources into good use will have taken action against climate change. This will, in turn, give future generations a chance to a habitable planet.   


Renewable energy will help nations achieve four sustainable development goals. They are good health and well-being, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, and climate action.

Renewables will minimize air pollution, thereby reducing the number of related diseases and deaths. The likes of solar and wind energy will give millions of households access to clean and affordable energy.    

Renewable power plants will increase the power generating capacity of many nations. This will allow new industries to emerge and existing ones to thrive. The result will be the availability of decent jobs and economic growth.

Increased use of renewables will decrease the demand for fossil fuels. This will, in turn, reduce the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and which are responsible for climate change.   

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