26. jan 2021

The New Narrative and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Denmark has pledged to meet the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. District heating plays a central role in meeting several of these goals and they constitute an important part of the New Narrative of Danish District Heating Association.

CEO in Danish District Heating Association Kim Mortensen. Foto: Maria Tuxen Hedegaard

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a call for action on peace and prosperity for people and the planet. As the UN SDGs are becoming more salient in company and governmental strategies as well as normal day-to-day life, they are also becoming more important to implement in the narrative used around district heating.

The New Narrative 
Danish District Heating Association (DDHA) choose to utilize the UN SDGs as part of the New Narrative for Danish district heating. DDHA is interested in telling a more active story on Danish district heating to render the positive contributions of the sector more visible.

Danish district heating is a unique success story within Danish energy supply and delivers secure and efficient energy to 1.7 million households all over Denmark and is considered an efficient storage solution of the fluctuating energy within the energy grid.

With around 65 pct. of district heating coming from renewable energy sources, district heating is becoming increasingly environmentally and climate friendly and it is a central component in the green transition of Danish energy supply. Thanks to district heating, oil and gas as heating sources are basically becoming non-existent in Danish households.

In many ways Danish district heating is already contributing to the UN SDGs through their supply of efficient and green energy. Namely SDG 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy and SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities are areas wherein district heating is an important component in reaching the associated targets in Denmark. Yet, there is plenty more potential in district heating and as we convert the remaining part of Danish district heating to green energy the Danish emissions of carbon dioxide are being reduced significantly.

The efforts of district heating are contributing to the ambitions of making Denmark independent of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel independence is possible because district heating is a flexible solution adapted for future requirements and able to utilize several different energy sources.

DDHA’s work on the SDGs
DDHA’s work on the UN SDGs are still in many ways at a start-up stage. In general, Danish district heating is already contributing to the fulfilment of the goals, and within the sector several of the companies have already begun working on the implementation of the SDGs at varying levels.

A challenge within the sector is to meet the generational change, where new competencies are required. Here DDHA’s focus on the SDGs will contribute to meeting these challenges by gaining access to a set of measurable tools. These will make it possible to render visible the effort and progress made within the chosen SDGs.

By examining the 17 SDGs and the associated targets, DDHA has chosen a specific focus on four goals. Namely:

  • SDG 5 (Gender Equality)
  • SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy)
  • SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities)
  • SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

These SDGs are not chosen to signify that DDHA will overlook the remaining SDGs as there are ways of contributing to these to a greater or lesser extent. As an example, especially SDG 13 on Climate Action seems an obvious choice for the district heating sector, but by examining the associated targets on SDG 13 it became clear that these were directed at action on adaption in third world countries and small island states. Hence, the district heating sector still contributes to action on climate change, but through other SDGs, such as SDG 7. 

Gender equality
Together with the other SDG’s DDHA has chosen SDG 5 ‘Gender Equality’ as a specifically challenging goal. This is also to signify that DDHA does not perceive the SDGs as a "tick the box" exercise, but rather choose to contribute with added value.

The district heating sector is to a large extent male dominated and DDHA sees a challenge in confronting this imbalance and to remain or become an attractive alternative for both genders in a landscape of a limited work force.The sector should represent the community it is part of, which is why DDHA is working on promoting the visibility of the public utility and social aspects of district heating as well as working on equal representation within the values of the sector, among others.