Monday, 29 March 2010

Humble cookstoves reduce deadly toll of smoke

GERES, Cambodia - 2006 Ashden Award winner
Today we released a report that shows the potential of improved stoves to benefit the lives of the world’s poorest and to mitigate climate change. Nearly half the world’s households, around three billion people worldwide, eat food cooked on traditional stoves and fires that kill around 1.6 million people a year - most of them children. The report says that a global programme to produce half a billion improved stoves could convert the world’s poor to safer cooking, save hundreds of thousands of young lives a year, and at the same time cut global greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of up to one billion tonnes of CO2 yearly.

The report, ‘Stoking up a cookstove revolution: the secret weapon against poverty and climate change’, gives many examples of stoves programmes across the developing world that provide affordable, robust ‘improved’ stoves that burn less fuel, cook faster and approximately halve harmful smoke emissions. Many use a chimney to remove smoke and gases from the kitchen, improving combustion.

Kisangani Smith Group - 2008 Ashden Award winner

“Efficient stoves are the most direct and affordable way to address climate change, but we need millions and millions of them,” says Dean Still, director of Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon, USA.

There are still hurdles to overcome, says the report. Each improved stove must be designed for local cooking practices and diets and studies show that cultural patterns sometimes prevent their easy acceptance and adoption. According to the Ashden Awards it is essential to use social marketing and education to introduce the stoves sensitively and ensure they are designed according to local cooks’ needs and preferences.

Many clean stoves are designed by social entrepreneurs for local manufacture, and non governmental organisations usually provide training to ensure they meet quality standards. Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh, for example, trains local technicians who build stoves in people’s homes, aiming to provide 10 million stoves in this way by 2015. Substantial investment and support is needed to reach the half billion people who need efficient stoves.

GERES, Cambodia - 2006 Ashden Award winner

The report suggests that the carbon market can play a useful role in stove programme investment: “We calculate that improved cooking stoves can keep a tonne of CO2 out of the atmosphere for as little as $1 to $3 – an exceedingly good deal in a market where offsets can be sold for $20 to 30 a tonne,” says Fred Pearce, author of the report.

“We think the time has come for greater finance and political will to roll out stoves. Just as donors have grasped the value of rolling out bed-nets against malaria, we want to see improved stoves make a real impact on the poor. Better stoves improve health, save lives, help mitigate the effects of climate change while also saving money,” says Sarah Butler-Sloss founder director of the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.

To download the report and for information on our winners, visit our website.

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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Simon on financing local sustainable energy projects

Last month, our UK Support Manager, Simon, was invited to speak at “Financing Energy Efficiency/Renewables Projects”, an event held by the Islington Climate Change Partnership(ICCP). The ICCP is a partnership of organisations within Islington that have committed to tackle climate change through reducing their carbon emissions by 15% by 2010 or over three years.

This event was concerned with helping some of the smaller member organisations (SMEs, voluntary orgs, schools, etc.) source finance to help implement sustainable energy projects. Presentations were given by Paul Murphy, the Carbon Reduction Advisor for the ICCP, on Carbon Trust Loans, the E.ON Sustainable Energy Fund, the EDF Energy Green Fund and the Scottish Power Green Energy Trust. Monika Munzinger, from the Building Research Establishment (BRE), also presented on the Community Sustainable Energy Programme and the Phase 2 of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

Simon rounded the event off with a presentation sharing some of the learning and best practice from Ashden award-winners. He spoke about the benefits, opportunities and pitfalls of community owned assets, government feed-in tariffs, revolving funds and the value of well-managed partnerships between business, local authorities and community organisations.

With over a hundred winners across the UK and in the developing world, Simon was also able to draw on a wealth of lessons and examples to offer ideas for local enterprises in Islington. For instance, The Energy Agency in Ayrshire has used a community fund from the Hadyard Hill wind farm to promote energy efficiency very intensively in three local villages. This resulted in high take-up rates for major energy efficiency measures such as cavity wall and loft insulation, as well as specialised insulation and solar water-heating in some households. Energy supply companies are now funding the Energy Agency to replicate the work in other villages and deprived urban areas.

Another great example comes from Bioregional. As part of the wider One Planet Sutton initiative, Sutton Council has been working with Bioregional to transform the district of Hackbridge into a sustainable suburb. Simon also talked about the great work of some of our local authority winners, who, in partnership, have delivered really impressive area-based programmes, bringing energy efficiency to thousands of homes.

Overall, we think this event was a great example of commitment toward action at a local level. Attended by organisations and entrepreneurs committed to moving towards sustainable energy use, it reflects a greater need for sustained support and knowledge-sharing amongst individuals and communities striving in these areas.

More about Ashden award-winners can be found on our website.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Jo sees installation of biogas plant at SKG

My last field visit was to see some biogas plants installed by our 2007 winner, SKG Sangha, with company secretary Kiran Kumar. The installations they wanted me to see were several hours drive out of Bangalore so we made a start in the afternoon. After a three hour drive we arrived in the town of Hassan to west of Bangalore where we stayed the night.

The following morning it was another two hours on the road to visit some farms. Although I have visited India several times as a tourist over the last few years, I have never had the opportunity to visit small villages deep in the countryside and it was fascinating. The countryside got more attractive the further we went, with flat land and rice paddies giving way to gentle hills where coffee, pepper and other spices are grown.

The village I visited is one where SKG has been very active – of 70 homes 40 have had biogas plants installed, with those which have been built more recently including a vermicomposting unit.

The really interesting thing about this visit was that we were able to see biogas plants at all stages of construction.

The mason I saw building this digester was obviously very skilled and worked really quickly. As always in India he had a big audience watching with interest as he, helped by members of the family who were having the plant, made rapid progress.

Once several courses of bricks had been laid they started sealing the outside with a very loose mortar.

Then the space around the digester is then back-filled with the excavated earth.

The unit for the vermicompost is where the slurry from the digester is turned into a rich compost by worms. This compost is used on the farmers’ own land with any surplus being sold and increasing income.

The biogas is piped from the unit into the house through the roof:

Ready to cook on.

Of course none of this would be possible without these:

You can find out more about this technology all of our winners by visiting our website.

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

SELCO, bringing solar light to families and businesses in Bangalore

The second of Jo’s visits to award-winners in India, following the Building a sustainable energy future for India conference in February, was to SELCO:

“Following my long day driving round the countryside with TIDE I was pleased that the projects I went to visit the following day with SELCO were on the outskirts of Bangalore.

The first area we visited was just off the busy main road we’d driven along the day before. This settlement seemed quite densely populated but was clean and peaceful and, as I was visiting on a religious holiday, there was a very happy mood with beautiful designs on the ground outside many of the houses. Many of the people who live here are of low-caste and quite poor. Although there is mains electricity here it is unreliable and they have to pay for it. A local politician has paid for many of the homes to have solar home systems (SHS) installed by SELCO. These systems typically consist of a small solar PV panel plus battery and one or two CFL lights. The homes I visited generally had two rooms, one for living and a kitchen so these systems were adequate.

One household I visited was so pleased with their SHS that they had cut the wires to the mains electricity supply!

We then moved on to another village on the outskirts of Bangalore where the principal activity is raising silk-worms. The worms are housed in secure buildings with small windows to stop birds getting in and having a free lunch. This makes them very dim which is fine for the worms but difficult for the farmers when they go in to feed them the mulberry leaves which constitute their diet – something which has to be done every four hours. In the past they would use candles but these frequently fell onto the racks of silk-worms sending the whole lot up in smoke.

SELCO have supplied solar lamps to the businesses but adapted the usual systems sold so that the lamps supplied have a long lead. This enables the farmer to move around the racks of silk worms as he feeds them, casting a bright, safe, carbon-neutral light on their work.

I went up on the flat roof of one of the buildings and was struck as I looked around the village by how many of the roofs had solar panels on them. This is obviously a popular solution - SELCO have installed 80 systems here in the last three years”.

You can find out more about all of our winners by visiting our website.

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Monday, 8 March 2010

Jo visits TIDE in Bangalore

Jo, our Communications Manager, spent time in India at the beginning of February to run the first ever Ashden Awards international event – the two day conference ‘Building a Sustainable Energy Future for India’. After the conference (which you can read about here), Jo went south to Bangalore to visit some Ashden Award-winners and to find out more about what they are doing. Her first visit was to TIDE:

“TIDE won the Ashden Energy Champion Award in 2008. I had seen Svati Bhogle, the organisation's charismatic founder, in Delhi. She was going on to other engagements around Delhi so she arranged for her colleague Prabha, who is Head of the Women and Livelihoods team, to show me some of their work.

Prabha met me at my hotel in central Bangalore early in the morning and we set off to into the countryside to see some of the work they are doing with women entrepreneurs. It takes ages to get out of Bangalore, there is a lot of traffic and a lot of road works making for a very bumpy, dusty ride. After a couple of hours we’d left all the traffic behind and were bumping along equally dusty roads in the countryside district of Tumkar.

Our first visit was to see some greenhouses which have been built with funding from TIDE. At first I was puzzled – why would you need greenhouses in South India where it’s always warm? The reason soon became clear – if you grow vegetables in a greenhouse you can control pests and diseases and increase productivity – by up to 30% according to TIDE - through drip irrigation and temperature control.

The green houses are part of TIDE’s work to empower women. They are all run by women entrepreneurs with the support of their families. They provide the land and TIDE builds the greenhouse. The payback is an agreement by the women to give 15% of their earnings from the greenhouse produce to a local school. The school then uses this money to buy extra vegetables for the children – increasing their intake to 50gm per day. To date TIDE have installed six greenhouses in the district, benefitting 400 school-children and they have five more planned.
A highlight of the day was going to visit a couple of the schools who are benefitting from the scheme – and I even got to try some of their lunch!

We then went on to visit another of TIDE’s women entrepreneurs, Pushpa, who has been trained to sell energy-efficient light bulbs and solar lamps in her own and neighbouring villages. In the past locals had been sold poor quality energy efficient light bulbs which at 30 rupees each were relatively expensive but burnt out quickly. This means that Pushpa has to convince people that these bulbs are worth buying, that they are more efficient and will last longer. When I met her she had held her first meeting ten days previously and of 30 people present, ten had ordered solar torches and a couple had gone for small solar home systems, so she was feeling positive about the future.

Our last visit of the day was to another entrepreneur who has been travelling the district with a portable mould to make domestic stoves. These are modelled on the same lines as the stoves traditionally used in the area but are designed so that the smoke is extracted efficiently, reducing indoor air pollution and the associated health risks. I met Katyayini who is one of TIDE’s trainers, travelling around Karnataka training women to make and install these stoves.

Having the opportunity to meet these people and see what TIDE is doing with women entrepreneurs was fascinating. TIDE is making a huge difference to the lives of rural women and children through this work, as well as helping them to learn about and mitigate the impacts of climate change through rain-water harvesting for greenhouses and reduced wood-fuel usage in stoves.”

You can find out more about all of our winners by visiting our website.

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Mariana visits NEST's expanding solar business

Our International Programme Manager, Mariana, was recently able to make a visit to NEST in Hyderabad after attending the Sustainable Energy India conference :

“This was a great experience, it made a huge difference to actually see NEST in action; its offices, assembly room and the surrounding areas. In my time spent with NEST I was able to learn a lot about how it has progressed as an organisation in the last few years.

NEST, who won an award in 2005, is doing very well as a business. They have been growing in geographical reach and in the products they offer. They have recently come out with the Ashwarya WOW, which uses LED bulbs and lasts several more hours.

NEST would like to be growing at a faster pace, reaching more homes and individuals without access to electricity. Bharat Barki, Director of NEST, believes the market for solar lanterns is huge in India and is just now reaching a moment where it will really take off. One reason it has taken longer than expected to expand, however, is due to solar receiving a reputation for bad quality and maintenance: a certain number of programmes and projects go for cheaper options with less quality or do not set up a system for follow-up maintenance. NEST, however, has been working extensively in this area to provide a quality service and believes they offer one of the best products and on-going maintenance programmes. In fact, they have recently received an order for more than double the amount they have sold in the last 10 years! They believe they will have sold close to a million solar home systems in the next 12 months”.

You can find out more about all of our winners by visiting our website.

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