Friday, 20 March 2009

Ashden Awards channel launches on Green TV

The popular environment video website,, has now launched a channel specific to the Ashden Awards. Films will be added gradually over the next few weeks, you can view the channel here:

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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Power to the People

Simon Brammer, UK programme manager for the Ashden Awards, was recently interviewed for an article in The Independent:

More than a few eager job hunters will have been cheered by Gordon Brown's announcement earlier this month that the green pound is set to create 400,000 jobs over the coming years. The Prime Minister spoke of a "green new deal" which would rebuild the global economy on low-carbon lines, investing in the sort of environmentally responsible technologies that have been championed for years by organisations, such as the Ashden Awards in its work with sustainable energy projects in the UK and abroad.

As its UK programme manager, Simon Brammer is responsible for liaising with the businesses, charities and local authorities who've won one of the Ashden Awards' annual grants of up to £30,000 to develop and maintain existing renewable energy projects.
Read the full story here

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Monday, 16 March 2009

LCBP support for solar runs out

A recent report from the Renewable Energy Association says:

The Renewable Energy Association, representing the renewables industry, expressed astonishment and concern at the closure of Stream 2 support for PV under the Low Carbon Building Programme (LCBP).

Only four days after the Government laid out plans for a low-carbon revolution, at the launch of its new low-carbon industrial strategy, it announced that the funding stream for the most popular technology, solar power, had run out. No applications made since the 26 February are permissible and the whole stream is due to end in June.

In December last year an extra £7 million was allocated to the PV stream of the LCBP to tide it over until the programme closed. However this funding had all been allocated by the 26 February 2009. A further £12 – 15 million still remains in the LCBP budget and at the present rate of spend it is predicted that £8 million will remain unspent by the end of the programme. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have said that Phase 2 will not be extended and any remaining funds will be sent back to the Treasury.

The REA recommends the immediate reallocation of remaining LCBP funds on a first come, first served basis so all microgeneration technologies can gain maximum benefit.

Read the full story here

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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

British scientist gets serious on making the energy numbers add up

David MacKay, author of “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” is a number-cruncher par excellence and is spending much of his personal energy using the power of figures to get people thinking about what plans we should be making as a country for delivering our energy needs. Yesterday at Allington House, London, he number-crunched his way through many detailed scenarios for how the UK could achieve sustainability through a combination of renewable energies, energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption and expanding other sources of energy. The thrust of his approach seems to be to assess realistically what can be achieved, how much people will be prepared to change, and then persuade the government and other implementers to get on and do what’s needed.

What was his conclusion? In a nutshell, “It would be very difficult to live on renewables, at least as we currently live”. He argued strongly that renewables like PV, solar water heating, biomass and wind power would have to be at country-scale to be able to make a significant impact. Wind power, for example would have to include massive offshore and onshore farms covering a large proportion of the country as well as vast underwater ones in the North Sea to make a real difference. Most of his favoured solutions were fairly obvious and widely touted – insulation, turning down thermostats, reading energy meters and
using heat pumps (air source and ground source). Others were more contentious - electrifying transport, importing electricity from solar farms the size of Germany in North African deserts, and possibly expanding nuclear power stations. His ideas are likely to polarise audiences into those that see his approach as refreshingly realistic and others who are not happy with any role for nuclear power. Mackay doesn't necessarily advocate a strong role for nuclear, but wants those who reject it to make sure their numbers for energy supply still add up.

MacKay, a physics professor at Cambridge University gave his presentation at the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts office in London, where the Ashden Awards is based. Find out more and download the book for free and at

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Ringmer College Races Ahead with Green Initiatives

Ringmer Community College in Sussex has been busy since winning an award from us in June 2008. They were recently awarded with a 4th green flag for their impressive energy-saving activities in the College, led by the well-named eco coordinator Stephen Green. Other plans that include a sponsored green car race are making the school an inspiring model for others to follow.

Receiving green flag status is the highest Eco Schools accolade a British school can win, "This is the 4th year running for us. Our success was largely down to simple but effective measures like vigilant energy monitoring and energy saving around the school" says Stephen Green.

Thanks to prize money from the Ashden Awards, students can now closely track the energy use of the College’s ground source heat pump with an easy to view monitor in the Sixth Form building entrance and science labs.

The growing profile the college has enjoyed since winning the Award, has also helped Ringmer secure new support from the County Council which will enable them to install a new biomass boiler later this year. This will burn wood chip, a sustainable fuel. The college will then be able to boast yet another renewable energy source to add to its solar panel display, wind turbine and ground source heat pump.

The College was recently chosen as a pilot school by the County Council to work with researchers on new insulation measures. To make this crucial energy measure more engaging for the pupils, they plan to use Perspex panels in the ceiling to show different types of traditional and modern insulation – from sheep’s wool to high tech fabrics - and even use human hair from a sponsored hair cut!

On June 6th the College will hold a fun-packed Green Car Grand Prix with several local primary schools. Using electric cars supplied by Green Power Goblin Cars, the children will make and drive the cars themselves to test their endurance and technical prowess, and learn about fuel efficiency, efficient driving habits etc. Some of the Ashden prize money is going to this exciting event, with an Ashden trophy going to the winner.

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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Professor Muhammad Yunus video

Last week the Ashden Awards hosted a lecture by Professor Muhammad Yunus, here's the video of the event, starting with an introduction by Sarah Butler Sloss, Executive Chair of the Awards, and a short film.

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Monday, 2 March 2009

Inspiring words from the guru of microcredit, Professor Muhammad Yunus

On Thursday night we were lucky enough to have a lecture from the guru of microcredit, Professor Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank. He is a phenomenal, creative individual with the ability to come up with a life-changing idea a minute it seems. He has now developed his years of experience and knowledge into a concept he calls “social business” to address the problems of the poor. In the lecture, given in his intimate, conversational style, he spoke convincingly about the need for an urgent change in the world’s financial systems to promote lending to the credit-worthy poor, and spread the values of social business. The lecture hall at the Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington was packed with people from all walks of life and all ages, with a great turnout of young people. Unlike many lectures, where papers shuffle and yawns are stifled, the atmosphere was quite electric, as the audience seemed to hang on every quiet and inspired word, each containing real resonance at this time of anxiety and uncertainty.

I first came across Professor Yunus’ work when working for the Panos Institute back in the 1980’s and we published a book called Banking the Unbankable, containing a chapter about his work in Bangladesh. Twenty years on, the Grameen Bank has spread microfinance to over 7 million people, offering small loans without collateral that are hugely improving the lives of poor women and their families in Bangladesh. Professor Yunus gave a moving description of his visit to a “Grameen woman”, one of his first lenders, and her daughter who is going to university thanks to his efforts. He commented sadly on the fact that this woman herself could have been where her daughter is now, if it were not for a system that stopped poor people from progressing and taking charge of their lives. He gently encourages all the children of these Grameen women to go out in the world and start up their own social businesses, instead of relying on others to give them work. I’m sure for many people in the audience he was lighting the spark of an idea…

Refreshingly, Professor Yunus sees the global financial crisis that we are constantly told will ruin lives and cause chaos, as an opportunity as well as challenge – an opportunity to bring about major changes in banking, the economic system and society. “The financial, environmental and food crises are all interrelated and are all driven by selfishness. We must seize this opportunity to come up with an alternative financial system, based on trust and selflessness. The poor are suffering from financial apartheid. They make up two-thirds of the world’s population but are currently excluded from the system. The real issue is not whether the poor are credit-worthy but whether banks are people-worthy” Professor Yunus told us.

We heard how the Grameen enterprises now number over 30 covering solar energy, mobile phones, water, health and many others, all driven by social motives. We at the Ashden Awards are very familiar with the member of the Grameen family that is expanding sustainable energy - Grameen Shakti. Last year they and their committed leader, Dipal Barua, won the Ashden Outstanding Achievement Award for incredible work installing solar home systems, biogas plants and improved stoves across Bangladesh. When they first won an award in 2006 for their solar energy programme and Dipal came to London to receive the prize, he was inspired by other winners using biogas and improved cooking stoves and decided to go back and do the same in Bangladesh. Two years later they’ve installed 220,000 solar home systems, 6,000 biogas plants and produced 23,000 improved stoves!

It was great to hear that the Grameen programmes so far are unaffected by the financial crisis - “While the financial world collapses all around us, our schemes are thriving - so who is really credit-worthy?” he remarked.

If you’re interested in these ideas, make sure you read Professor Yunus’ book which is now in paperback, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism where he puts forward his vision of a future where many embrace the idea of social business, business with a conscience that is not founded on the profit motive, but the motive to help others. “I think every problem can be turned into a social business. Each one is the development of a seed, and it can be replicated to change the world instead of to make money.”

Juliet Heller, Ashden Awards

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The Big Energy Shift

Government is setting ambitious targets for renewable energy, heat and energy savings. To achieve these targets, a significant step change will be needed in the way we heat our homes and offices and take up energy savings measures.

The Ashden Awards has been working alongside a wide range of stakeholders and the Department for Energy and Climate Change who are now working with households and communities, businesses and the public sector to work up options for delivering 'the big shift'. There are many options that are being tested from financial ones such as feed-in tariffs to establishing community wide areas projects to legislative sticks such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) set out in the Climate Change Bill.

Earlier this week the Ashden Awards participated in the public sector stakeholder event which brought together public sector organisations as wide as primary care trusts, local authorities, government department or schools. The mood of the event reflected the urgency that is increasingly being felt by Government to deliver against carbon reduction targets and highlighted a number of key issues that are blocking the action needed in the public sector. These include skills and capacity issues such as the need for strong leadership and energy champions within organisation, supply chain issues such as developing the capacity of delivery organisations and helping them to scale up to meet demand and strategic issues such as whether there is a need to extending zero emissions targets to existing public building stock.

Of course there are already shining beacons in the UK whether they be local authorities, schools, charities or businesses already delivering effective sustainable energy solutions; they are called Ashden Award winners. So we were there to share winners’ success stories and to demonstrate the some are already leading the way.

Visit the website at

Simon Brammer, Ashden Awards

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