Monday, 29 December 2008

Global solar report card

Global Green USA and Green Cross International have published a "Global solar report card", which they say:

"... explores 16 countries, and the state of California’s, solar commitments to date, as well as their policy efforts in fostering future growth of their solar markets. Success stories as well as lessons learned in policy implementation are discussed. Final grades reveal that all countries are still in the early phases of solar deployment."
You can download the report here.

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Monday, 22 December 2008

Solarcentury at Poznan

Solarcentury, who won an Ashden Award in 2007, joined with other solar companies and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at Poznan to encourage rapid expansion of the use of solar PV technology to combat climate change, as reported by Your Renewables News.

Their proposal included:

  • Stringent, ambitious, international and national carbon regulation policies
  • Enforceable renewables mandates with a solar carve out or credit multiplier for solar energy
  • Near-term incentives that could include feed-in tariffs, partial rebates, tax credits and/or property-based loans
  • Favorable net metering, interconnection, permitting and land-use policies.
Jeremy Leggett, Executive Chairman of Solarcentury, said: "As a European leader in building-integrated solar, Solarcentury expects to see buildings routinely becoming power plants in the years ahead, generating all their own electricity and heating needs in situ, and often more than they need, making them net exporters of energy. With the right partners in the construction industry, we can put up zero-emissions buildings in a matter of weeks: not the years that conventional power plants require. We are seeing some excellent progress with European support, particularly with the incentive of strong feed-in tariffs, but we need very much more."

Read the full story here.

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REDP article in Renewable Energy for Development

Renewable Energy for Development is a magazine published by the Stockholm Environment Institute. Volume 21, issue 2 contains an article on REDP China (Renewable Energy Development Project), explaining their finance model, quality control process and the benefits of the solar PV technology they are working with. You can read it here, the article is on page 5.

REDP won their Ashden Award in 2008 for their work in supporting the Chinese solar PV industry. You can read more info and watch a short film about them here.

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Friday, 12 December 2008

Cookstoves in the Economist

A recent Economist article covers biomass cooking stoves, explaining some of the challenges faced in designing them and making sure they actually get used:

If user demand were the sole driver of innovation, the biomass cooking stove would be one of the most sophisticated devices in the world. Depending on which development agency you ask, between two-and-a-half and three billion people—nearly half the world’s population—use a stove every day, in conjunction with solid fuel such as wood, dung or coal. Yet in many parts of the world the stove has barely progressed beyond the Stone Age.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that toxic emissions from cooking stoves are responsible for causing 1.6m premature deaths a year, half of them among children under five years old. In China 83m people will die from lung cancer and respiratory disease over the next 25 years, according to a recent report from Harvard University. Research from the University of California, Berkeley, on stoves in India, Guatemala and Mexico has found links between indoor air-pollution from stoves and increased incidence of pneumonia, cataracts and tuberculosis.
Even if they get the thermodynamics and materials right, designers must also make the devices compatible with local foodstuffs and cooking habits. A lot of the initial stove projects failed this test, says Daniel Kammen of Berkeley’s Energy Resources Group, who has worked on several stove projects in sub-Saharan Africa. A lack of field testing, he says, meant a lot of stoves were simply unsuited to users’ needs. The difference in cooking styles between countries, he says, can determine how—and whether—a new stove design ends up being used.
If such cultural factors are not taken into account, people will not use the stoves. Dr Wilson says just 3% of chimneys provided as part of one project in India were being used, according to a later survey: the rest had been either sold or reused as irrigation channels.

Read the full article in the Economist, and check out past Ashden Award winners who developed successful cookstoves.

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Ashden Awards at COP14 in Poznan, Poland

With all of the important but rather abstract climate policy discussions that are going on in Poznan this week for the UNFCCC climate change conference (COP14), you’ll be happy to hear that delegates will have the chance to see some real sustainable energy technologies, thanks to the Ashden Awards!

We were invited by the Polish Ministry of the Environment to display models of Ashden Award winning technologies, alongside information about how the technologies have been applied by our winners. These exhibits have included improved cooking stoves (GERES, Kisangani Smith Group, Gaia Association and Aprovecho Research Centre), a ram pump (AID Foundation), a solar home system (Grameen Shakti) and a treadle pump (International Development Enterprises India).

I went out to set them up and they are sitting happily next to hydrogen cars and other futuristic hi-tech gadgets – hopefully as a reminder that these programmes are already delivering social, economic and environmental benefits for millions of people – and need to be rolled out to many more millions. Photos to follow...

Ben Dixon

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Is it time for transition?

What connects farming, famine, food, fossils fuels and fertilisers? The answer is somewhat surprising: oil. This was one of the conclusions of the Soil Association annual conference: Transition - Food and Farming in 21st century Britain. Fossil fuel depletion, climate change, diminishing soil and water resources and population growth present an unprecedented threat to global food security.

Those threats are based on our dependence on fossil-fuels for both our energy needs and for the mass production (and transportation) of food. This places us in a very precarious position. Precarious because oil has peaked and we are beginning to run out. Precarious because mass, non-organic, agriculture is so dependent on synthetic, oil-based fertilisers. Precarious because the burning of fossil-fuels is leading to irrevocable climate change. Precarious because our dependency on imported food and energy leaves us a vulnerable, net importer and precarious because we are destroying the very thing that nurtures us: the soil beneath our feet.

But rather than produce despondency (a common enough human reaction) these problems have led to some remarkable grass-roots solutions. From the rapidly growing Transitions Towns movement to Catherine Sneed’s remarkable and moving ‘healing through horticulture’ programme in US prisons to Dr Vandana Shiva’s ‘Soil not Oil’ movement. You can listen for yourself here:

Ashden Awards was there too, to share the experience of our pioneering winners, as a major contributor to a workshop on farming and energy. The workshop outlined the lessons we can learn from international biogas systems for UK farmers and demonstrated the benefits of biomass in sustainable farming energy solutions as well as the role farmers (and landowners) can play in powering the national grid through wind. There was overwhelming interest.

Whilst the global issues can seem at times insurmountable, this conference demonstrated that it is the often small, frequently bottom up, mostly local and always sustainable solutions that may provide the shoots of hope for us all.

Simon Brammer
UK Programme Manager for Ashden Awards

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Mayor of London follows example of Ashden Awards winner

Boris Johnson and his advisers are examining the scheme for which Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council won an Ashden Award in 2006. The scheme installed insulation, solar PV and solar thermal technology in social and private housing, and also community buildings.

The Telegraph says:

Isabel Dedring, Mr Johnson's director of environmental policy, who is a New Yorker, said she was on her way to Kirklees next week to see how the scheme worked. She hopes the first homes could be insulated in this way within a year.

The mayor is looking to Kirklees after an audit of the green schemes put in place by his predecessor showed mixed results, with relatively few people taking up the offer of a £199 survey and concierge service to identify where homes could save energy.

Ms Dedring said: "It is difficult to get people to do the audit, then even more difficult to get them to do the actions. People are lazier than you think. If it is harder than extremely easy, people will not do it."

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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

10,000 jobs to be created by insulating homes

The Guardian reports:

A plan to create more than 10,000 jobs in the construction industry by insulating homes in the private and public sectors will be announced by Alistair Darling in today's pre-budget report.

The government will bring forward future capital spending in an attempt to reduce energy bills this winter and to employ some of those laid off during the worst downturn in the property market for two decades.

While the main thrust of the report will be emergency measures to prompt a pre-Christmas consumer spending spree, Darling will today emphasise that Labour remains committed to its goals for the environment. Some of the increased spending will be used to upgrade social housing to make it more fuel-efficient, and there will be a small boost to spending on flood protection schemes. Read the full story here

Several past Ashden award winners have worked with insulation, click here to see a list of them, including documentary videos and case studies.

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Monday, 17 November 2008

Trewin Restorick writes for the Guardian

Trewin Restorick (pictured below), in a recent article in the Guardian, comments that some retailer-led sustainability initiatives contain an element of 'greenwashing' and end up confusing consumers. However, it's not all bad, Sainsbury, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and B&Q are credited for schemes they have run. He says:

"To really push forward change, retailers are going to have to brave more controversial territory. One such area is "choice editing", where retailers offering competing products at similar cost opt to edit out of their range the brands deemed to be most environmentally damaging. This has begun in furniture retailing where there is now considerable pressure on retailers not to stock brands using wood that can't be traced to sustainable sources. B&Q has also done this by opting not to continue selling patio heaters once their existing stock is sold. This could go a lot further should retailers be brave enough to take a stand against the holy grail of unlimited consumer choice."
Trewin is chief executive of Global Action Plan, who won an Ashden Award in 2008 for their work in helping businesses reduce energy consumption and waste production.

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Sustainable housing awards 2008

Inside Housing has announced the 2008 winners of their Sustainable Housing awards. The categories range from biodiversity and social housing to water conservation and sustainable energy. Good Energy, a past Ashden Award winner, won the "Green energy supplier" award.

Full details on the winner projects are available on the Inside Housing website: Sustainable housing awards 2008

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Friday, 14 November 2008

Grameen Shakti article in the FT

The Financial Times has published an article about Grameen Shakti and other sustainable energy companies. Grameen Shakti won Ashden Awards for their work in 2006 and 2008.
The article says:

Faroukh lives miles from the nearest mains power. His mobile, like the lights in his home and in his wife’s sewing workshop, are charged by solar electricity, courtesy of a small photovoltaic (PV) panel attached to the roof of his house. It was sold to him by Grameen Shakti (‘village energy’), an offshoot of the hugely successful Grameen Bank.

Thanks to a simple micro-credit system, even poor families like Faroukh’s can afford the panels. Savings on the smoky, unreliable kerosene lanterns easily cover the monthly repayments. The solar lamps mean Faroukh’s family can work into the evenings, more than doubling their income, while the phone plugs them into the wider economy in a way that would have been unimaginable ten years ago.

Grameen Shakti – winner of an outstanding achievement prize in the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy – has now installed nearly 200,000 solar home systems across Bangladesh, and confidently expects to hit one million by 2015. With over 30 million families marooned ‘off grid’ in Bangladesh alone, the potential for future growth is enormous.

read the rest of the article here

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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Biomass district heating demo at Wood Energy site

On 27th January 2009 Regen SW is running a biomass district heating demonstration at Park 25, a site installed by Wood Energy. Details of the event are here.

Wood Energy won an Ashden Award in 2008 for their work installing biomass boilers and starting wood-fuel supply chains across the the UK. Information on the whole range of district heating schemes they have installed is available on their website.

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Friday, 31 October 2008

Award winning stoves feature in DFID magazine

Two past Ashden Award winners feature in the Developments magazine, published by DFID:

A pioneering range of wood stoves and kilns in South India, which save at least 30% of fuel, have been crowned “2008 Energy Champion” at the annual Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.
Many of South India’s small businesses rely on wood as their main source of fuel, which causes pollution and deforestation as well as uncomfortable and dangerous working conditions when boilers and stoves are badly-designed. Building on the track record of stove design at the renowned Indian Institute of Science, TIDE commercialises their designs to provide efficient tailor-made wood stoves and kilns cutting fuel by at least a third.
The Ashden Awards Outstanding Achievement gong went to Grameen Shakti of Bangladesh, an organisation which has made a big contribution to the spread of sustainable energy solutions. So far it has installed 160,000 solar home systems and is adding around 8,000 more each month. Since winning an Ashden Award in 2006 it has diversified into the provision of fuel-efficient stoves, which improve living conditions and save fuel. It also produces domestic biogas systems which bring clean, sustainable energy to thousands more.
The full story is available here, and further details on the two winners are at the following links:

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Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Oil Crunch: Securing the UK’s energy future

The UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security (ITPOES), which includes:

  • Arup
  • FirstGroup
  • Foster and Partners
  • Scottish and Southern Energy
  • Solarcentury
  • Stagecoach Group
  • Virgin Group
  • Yahoo!
has published its first report on Peak Oil, with a foreword by Lord Oxburgh (Former chairman of Shell). The report is available for download from Arup here.

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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

AID Foundation to open 'Techno Park'

AID Foundation won an Ashden Award in 2007 for their work with ram pumps, supplying water to remote villages. They are now opening their 'Techno Park':

A Techno Park of the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. will mark its opening day with the theme: “A Showcase of Alternative Technologies in Harmony with Nature and People,” at the AIDFI compound in Mansilingan, Bacolod City, Nov 8

To be showcased are the hydraulic ram pump, hydro power systems, models of water pumps, piggery with built-in bio-gas supply for cooking, stainless built-essential oil distiller, organic tilapia fish pond, contoured mini-rice-paddies, vermi-composted organic fertilizer, some rare plants and a nursery of fruits and some endemic species of trees.
Read the full story here

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Earth on course for eco 'crunch'

The BBC reports:

The planet is headed for an ecological "credit crunch", according to a report issued by conservation groups.

The document contends that our demands on natural resources overreach what the Earth can sustain by almost a third.

The Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network.

It says that more than three quarters of the world's population lives in countries where consumption levels are outstripping environmental renewal.

This makes them "ecological debtors", meaning that they are drawing - and often overdrawing - on the agricultural land, forests, seas and resources of other countries to sustain them.

The report concludes that the reckless consumption of "natural capital" is endangering the world's future prosperity, with clear economic impacts including high costs for food, water and energy.

Read the full story here

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Monday, 27 October 2008

Community Channel showing Ashden Awards films

Over the next few days the Community Channel will be showing a selection of the 2008 Ashden Award winners. Details of the schedule are here:

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Climate Change: the cost of inaction

This is a guest post by Simon Brammer, UK Programme Manager for the Ashden Awards.

Yesterday, I attended a conference in Edinburgh, Climate Change: the cost of inaction. Preparing to adapt our ways and manage Scotland's climate risk.

On my way up to Scotland I sat next to a Dentist who asked me where I was going and why. He believes climate change doesn’t exist; “It’s a government conspiracy to raise more tax” - and that climate change had happened before and the earth survived then. Indeed, he is right, if you go far enough back that is – it’s just that this time we, with many other diverse species that inhabit this plant, might not, like the dinosaurs, survive this time. No matter how I presented my argument, and whatever tactics I used, he was not convinced. His argument was that any potential challenges to his freedoms – freedom to fly, freedom to drive, freedom to use energy (I pay for it), freedom to consume as much as I like – were not acceptable. I arrived feeling rather de-skilled and de-flated.

However, the conference bucked me up. The main focus was on adaptation – how Scotland was to prepare for the inevitable changes of warming thus far – but as a couple of the speakers powerfully stated – it is a foolish argument to spend just on adaptation and not to put resources into mitigation.

Scotland has already taken the lead and announced 80% greenhouse gas emissions cut by 2050 in its own climate change strategy and Ed Milliband announced, last week, that the rest of the UK would follow suit. This is a good start and might just provide the leadership the rest of the world needs to get our strategies right in the ever decreasing window of opportunity that we have.

However, setting targets is one thing, meeting them is another, especially when they are so far away (2050) and that we are likely to see many more administrations in and out of political office before we get there. Clearly, we need key milestones in helping us meet them. What we also need, as demonstrated by my dentist friend, are huge changes in attitudes and subsequently behaviour if we are to meet this problem head on. Conference speakers argued that a systemic change of how we influence people and organisations (based on our evolving knowledge of social marketing) is essential. More thought on how we change behaviour and how we set good quality legislation is also needed. And, perhaps most immediately important, how we engage in a dialogue about the economic benefits of creating thousands of new green jobs in order to adapt and mitigate to climate change – rather than lose sight of the issues in this economic gloom.

At Ashden we want to play our part and we’re working hard to encourage policy and decision makers in local, regional and national government to engage with our successful award winning practitioners – to learn from their lessons and benefits from their insight – and of course, for energy practitioners to understand the pressures government faces in delivering against the targets set. That way, we might achieve the means to deliver against those targets based on practical examples of what we know already works. Perhaps I’ll invite my new dental friend along next time.

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

ClimateWire blog

One of the Ashden Awards judges, Mike Mason, has recently started a blog on climate issues called ClimateWire. His first post on there is an interesting piece about "biochar", otherwise known as Terra Preta.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Government pledges to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050

The Guardian reports:

The government today committed the UK to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 80% by the middle of the century in a bid to tackle climate change.

In a move that was widely welcomed by environmental campaigners, Ed Miliband, the new energy and climate change secretary, said that the current 60% target would be replaced by the higher goal in the climate change bill.
Sarah Butler-Sloss, the Executive Chair of the Ashden Awards responds:
It is commendable that yesterday the UK government committed to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and at the same time supported an amendment, much called for by our Award winning energy practitioners, the creation of 'feed in tariffs'. By allowing small scale electricity producers, such as homes and businesses with solar panels or wind turbines, to sell electricity back to the national grid, we will not only make a substantial contribution to tackling climate change but also, by providing consistency to a developing market, have the potential to create many hundreds of new green jobs in the UK. We hope the government will also implement similar measures that provide incentives for the greater use of local sustainable heating schemes (such as ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar water heaters). Together these measures, supported by a real drive on energy efficiency, would really kick start a thriving green economy.

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Final call for entries

Global green energy awards issue alert to UK and international energy pioneers

The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy are seeking entries from inspirational and innovative sustainable energy projects around the world. There are 15 Awards to be won (eight in the UK and seven internationally), and entry is free. The Awards will be presented at a VIP ceremony in London in June 2009. Application forms are online now at

  • Deadline for UK expressions of interest (business, charity, local authority): 28 October 2008
  • Deadline for international expressions of interest: 21 October 2008
  • Deadline for UK schools applications: 2 December 2008
Analysis of 10 previous Ashden Award-winning schemes showed that in 2008 they are reaching nine million people and saving 1.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions – equivalent to the total domestic emissions of more than 700,000 UK citizens.

In the UK, the Ashden Awards is seeking schemes run by local authorities, businesses, and charities/community organisations (including Energy Agencies). Winners in these four categories will receive £30,000 each in prize money for project development, with a second prize of £15,000. There is also a special category for schools. A ‘scheme’ submitted for an award may be the entire work of an organisation or a specific part of the work. Eligible schemes must involve the delivery of sustainable energy at a local level and scale. ‘Sustainable energy’ covers both renewable energy supply (electricity or heat) and reduction of energy demand.

Internationally, the Ashden Awards are looking for local sustainable energy projects based in countries with developing economies. Past winners have used various technologies to deliver a number of benefits to local communities and achieve carbon savings, including fuel-efficient stoves, micro-hydro plants, biogas plants, solar energy systems and water pumps. Many are doing this by boosting local peoples’ income, providing employment or training, installing lighting for schoolwork and even improving women’s status in their community.

Benefits of winning an Ashden Award include:
  • Prize money of up to £40,000 per project.
  • The chance to bring sustainable energy solutions into the international arena.
  • Continuing development support.
  • Engagement with key decision-makers in the sector.
  • A documentary film about the award-winning work. International publicity.

What does it take to be a winner?
The projects must:
  • Be up and running, delivering sustainable energy at a local level for at least one year.
  • Benefit the environment.
  • Be technically rigorous.
  • Have an element of innovation.
  • Make a genuine difference to local peoples’ lives, both socially and economically.
  • Be replicable and help encourage the widespread uptake of local, sustainable energy.

For further information and application forms visit, or email:

Examples of past winners, including short films about their work, are online at

Supporters of the Awards include Ashden Awards Patron HRH The Prince of Wales, Prof. Wangari Maathai, former US Vice-President Al Gore, and Jonathan Porritt CBE.

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Saturday, 18 October 2008

RESET birthday

A new organisation called RESET working on renewable energy, shelter and environment training ( has just celebrated its first birthday. Ben Dixon from the Ashden Awards business support programme went along to speak and offer support for with the important work they’re planning. He gave the “good news” on some of the inspiring solutions provided by our winners scaling up sustainable energy with biogas, well designed clean stoves and solar home systems. We’ll be working together with partners like RESET to bring these solutions to a bigger audience and encouraging more to follow their path.

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Watch out for The Age of Stupid

Coming to a cinema near you early next year is a powerful independent film, The Age of Stupid made by Franny Armstrong (producer of the McLibel film) who has funded her new film using “crowd funding” It’s an amazing rollercoaster ride of emotion, laughs and a hard-hitting message that we all fail to act now at our peril. What’s vital is what happens after people have watched the film and they ask themselves (as they will) – but what can I do? Ashden will be one of the organisations working with the film makers to offer solutions and promote the film’s message as widely as we can so that people know they can act and how.

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Friday, 10 October 2008

Uganda: Sun-drying adds value to Fruit

Fruits of the Nile, a 2008 Ashden Award winner, has featured on

WHEN Angelo Ndyaguma decided to venture into the solar fruit business in 1992, he hardly knew his idea would attract global recognition.

Although it was registered in 1993, Fruits of the Nile (FON) started production in 2007. The company operates in Njeru town, Jinja district and helps small-scale farmers to dry fruits using solar power and to export them.

In recognition of its progress in harnessing solar power, FON recently won a prize of £20,000 (sh65m).
Read the full story on

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Friday, 3 October 2008

Solar power in the Himalayas, Ladakh, Northern India

Ben Dixon, Ashden Awards’ Programme Manager, wanted to share a quick note from his holiday in the Himalayas in Ladakh, Northern India:

I couldn’t get away from sustainable energy even in a remote part of the Indian Himalayas, so thought I would share these photos.

Solar home systems have been spread throughout the Ladakh region through programmes sponsored by the national and state government, international donors, and a number of NGOs (including the 2003 Ashden Award winner Barefoot College). I heard about exciting plans for further roll-out of solar power, and other sustainable energy opportunities including wind and geothermal power. This region has huge energy challenges as it is cut off by snow for half the year, not connected to the national grid, and has little in the way of wood resources. So with the right support and implementation it should be a great sustainable energy success story - watch this space for another Ashden Award!

Solar panel on a traditional Ladakhi roof

Solar powered tent

Solar hot water for visiting trekkers

Solar cooker making tea

Solar lanterns for sale in Leh, Ladakh

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More Indian banks bring solar power to poor customers

Ben Dixon, Ashden Awards’ Programme Manager, recently visited Aryavart Gramin Bank in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. This bank won a 2008 Ashden Award for their programme of providing loans to rural customers wishing to buy solar home lighting systems:

I’m just back from a really exciting visit to Aryavart Gramin Bank in Lucknow. This forward-thinking rural bank is pioneering a system of affordable loans for poor rural customers that wish to purchase solar home lighting systems. The systems are supplied in partnership with TATA-BP Solar and they have rapidly scaled up to more than 20,000 loans agreed.

This programme is particularly exciting because it doesn’t involve any subsidy – the 5-year credit package means that repayments are equivalent to or less than a household’s energy bills when they use dim, toxic, and dangerous kerosene lanterns. This means the programme has great potential for replication through other rural banks and finance providers across India and elsewhere.

The good news is that since the profile of this programme was raised by its Ashden Award triumph in June 2008, India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has issued a circular encouraging every rural bank to follow this model, including the following content:

“A UK based charitable trust that works on increasing the use of local sustainable energy worldwide has awarded the bank with prestigious “Ashden Awards”. The Award is an internationally recognised yardstick for excellence in the field of sustainable or green energy ( Shri NK Joshi, then Chairman of Aryavart Gramin Bank received the Award from Dr. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace winner, at a ceremony held in London on 19/06/2008. Shri Joshi was congratulated by Prince Charles, Patron of Ashden Awards.

We therefore request you to make efforts to replicate the scheme in your area of operation without or with suitable modifications/changes as per the local requirements. NABARD would share 50% of the cost of installation up to a maximum of 20 demonstration units at important places. In addition, NABARD will extend support to the bank for conducting awareness campaigns and organising credit camps etc at Rs 1,000/- per campaign for a maximum of 20 programmes.”
At the request of NABARD, NK Joshi and NC Khulbe, the former and current Chairmen of Aryavart Gramin Bank, went to meet the Indian Finance Minister and the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and were given a special award to recognise the success of this programme (see photos below).
Previous and current Chairmen meet the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India

NK Joshi meets the Indian Finance Minister

I was also fortunate to visit the village of Gondwa, 55km from Lucknow, where 250 solar home systems have been financed so far by Aryavart Gramin Bank. Amazingly, this village has had electricity poles and lines for the last ten years, but no power has ever reached them.

We arrived in the evening to a tremendously warm reception from the village – who are clearly very enthusiastic about the opportunity to own a solar system. As it got dark, the impact of this work was particularly striking – the bright light from houses with solar power contrasted with the flickering orange kerosene candles that were barely lighting the rest of the village. We met with shopkeepers who were able to stay open later, women making money embroidering saris under solar lights, children happy to have bright light for their homework, and many other households with lights, mobile phone chargers, fans, TVs, radios and stereos all powered by solar electricity.

The Ashden Award funds will be used to help build the after-sales service system to make sure that any problems with solar systems are quickly fixed, to incentivise bank branches to continue roll-out of the programme, and to promote the programme further in new villages.

New AGB Chairman NC Khulbe

Local shop with solar lights

Solar powered chemist

Ben Dixon with the AGB team

Ben Dixon meets with NC Khulbe from AGB and Amit Kumar from TATA-BP Solar

AGB press conference

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News from AID Foundation

AID Foundation won an Ashden Award in 2007 for their work on ramp pumps to supply water to villages in the Philippines. Auke Idzenga, who accepted the award at the June 2007 ceremony in London updates us on their latest news:

Arrival of machines from Taiwan. As a result of the continued efforts of the Ashden Awards to help AID Foundation Incorporated (AIDFI) scale up its work on the hydraulic ram pump, a company with an office in London sponsored machines that were high on our wish list. The machines are a big lathe, a roller bender and a plasma cutter. These machines will help AIDFI save a lot of money because all metal jobs related to even the big ram pumps can now be done in-house. At the same time AIDFI can use these machines for some outside jobs to support its self-reliant way of operation. The machines will allow the quantity and quality of production to be increased, focusing on ram pumps and some hydro power machines. There is a huge increase in demand for the ram pumps.
Training of new installation teams. Since the Philippines consists of many islands, and the demand for ram pumps keep on increasing, there is a need for installation teams on all the big islands. AIDFI has, since last year, been working hard to set up two new installation teams: one in Mindanao and one in Cebu. The Mindanao team (a mix of Muslim and Christian youths) has been trained in the workshop of AIDFI and as a second step two technicians from AIDFI are training the team with actual ram pump projects right now in Mindanao. Also an engineer from Cebu is staying with AIDFI for a long period to be trained completely in all aspects of ram pump installation, operation and maintenance.

The Afghan ram pump story has moved on. In October 2007 three ram pump installations were set up in Northern Afghanistan, and the latest information is that are all used for their purpose of watering the newly established fruit and nut tree plantations on the slopes of the mountains along the rivers. These ram pumps have triggered a tremendous interest. After a lot of communications and planning, Mercy Corps (an American-British relief agency, active in Afghanistan) has sent three Afghans to the Philippines to be trained in designing, fabricating and installing ram pump systems. The training period is six weeks and will end in October 2008. Two of the team are shop owners, who are already involved in manufacturing and installation of hydro power systems. For them, the ram pump is an ideal extension of their hydro power activities. The third is an engineer of Mercy Corps and will be in charge of identifying sites and designing ram systems. The two shop owners will, after the completion of the training, be given a lifetime license to manufacture the AIDFI ram pump in Afghanistan.

There are also plans in the making for AIDFI to transfer the technology to Colombia.

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Eastchurch Primary School to install wind turbine

Eastchurch Primary School won an Ashden Award in 2006, having established a culture of 'good energy housekeeping'. They already had a 3KWp solar PV array installed, and have now applied for planning permission to install a small wind turbine, as reported in the local newspaper.

Headteacher John Stanford said: "It's a money saver and a potential money earner. The school has got a good track record for sustainable energy and has been successful in a number of environmental initiatives. By next year we are hoping to have the complete package of wind turbines, solar electric, and solar hot water."

Read the full article in the Sheerness Times Guardian

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Thursday, 25 September 2008

Trees, Water and People awarded Seal of Excellence

Fort Collins, CO - Environmental nonprofit organization, Trees, Water & People (TWP) has been awarded the prestigious “Best in America” Seal of Excellence from Independent Charities of America (ICA). The seal is given only to members of ICA who meet the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. Of the 1 million charities operating in the United States, only five percent meet these expectations, and fewer than two thousand charities have been awarded the exclusive seal.

Trees, Water & People is dedicated to improving people’s lives by helping communities to protect, conserve and maintain the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends. They develop and manage continuing reforestation, watershed protection, renewable energy, appropriate technology, and environmental education programs in Latin America and the American West. TWP’s conservation efforts have been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally.

To learn more about TWP, or to get involved, please visit

TWP won an Ashden Award in 2005 for their work with ADHESA in Honduras, developing the Justa stove to reduce reduce wood consumption and air pollution from smoke.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

23 September: The day humanity starts eating the planet in 2008

nef reports:

On September 23, humanity will have used up all the resources nature will provide this year, according to the latest data from Global Footprint Network and its member organisation nef (the new economics foundation) who devised the concept of Ecological Debt Day. Just like any company, nature has a budget – it can only produce so many resources and absorb so much waste each year. The problem is, our demand on nature’s services is exceeding what it can provide. Since the 1980s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot, using resources faster than they can be regenerated and putting carbon into the air faster than it can be reabsorbed. Globally, we now demand the biological capacity of 1.4 planets. But of course, we only have one. The result is that our supply of natural resources – like trees and fish – continues to shrink, while our waste – primarily carbon dioxide – accumulates. “It took governments in the UK and US just a week to drop decades of hardened economic practice to save the financial system from meltdown, why should it take any longer to act to save the planet?” says Andrew Simms, nef policy director, “They say that big financial institutions are too big to fail, but there is something larger and much more important that is being allowed to collapse – a climate system conducive to human civilisation. There could be less than one hundred months to prevent catastrophic, runaway global warming. We need a programme from government now, that is at least as bold as action to save reckless financiers.”
Read the full article here

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Monday, 22 September 2008

Indian National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development ventures into solar power.

As reported in the Financial Express, India, the state-run National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) is seeking to emulate the work of Ashden Award winner Aryavart Gramin Bank.

The state-run National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), in a serious bid to give a much needed push for solar power projects, proposes to share 50% of the cost of installation upto a maximum of 20 demonstration solar power project units at important places. In addition, Nabard will extend support to the regional rural banks and cooperative banks for conducting awareness campaigns and organising credit camps at Rs 1,000 per campaign for a maximum of 20 programmes.
Read the full story here

The Aryavart Grameen Bank team:

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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

SELCO features on Voice of America

SELCO, who won Ashden Awards in 2005 and 2007, have featured in a Voice of America article:

Group Brings Solar Power to Rural India
SELCO is a private company in Bangalore, India, that brings solar power to low income families and small businesses in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. It has twice won Ashden awards for Sustainable Energy.

Chairman of the Ashden Trust, Sarah Butler-Sloss explains, "By bringing together a package of micro-finance, of income generating training and encouragement as well as photovoltaic technology, they have found a way of showing how sustainable energy can improve the quality of life (of poor people) and they have done it in a commercial way," Butler-Sloss said.

The company's low cost solar home systems are sold to families and cooperatives that are not on the nation's power grid, bringing light and power to remote areas.

H. Harish Hande is the managing director of SELCO-INDIA says, "People come up and say 'my daughter has been able to complete her studies just because we have installed a solar light," Hande said. "We have increased our income. People even say 'my daughter was born under solar light rather than candles and kerosene."
Read the full article on Voice of America, including a video clip

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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

News from KXN

Guest post from KXN, one of our 2005 winners:

Last week, we exhibited at the 23rd EU PVSEC in Valencia, Spain, the only company (and I believe the first) from Sub-Sahara Africa among 715 exhibitors to participate in the world's largest photovoltaics conference and exhibition! Below is a photo of our stand.

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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Dulas gets a Youtube site

Dulas Ltd, one of our 2008 winners, now has their own Youtube page. The initial video there is about a renewable energy installation at a school. Here's the English version of the video, it's also available in Welsh.

There's another Dulas video on Youtube as well, from British Satellite News:

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Solarcentury Youtube page

Solarcentury, one of our 2007 winners, have their own Youtube page with several videos, such as this introduction to solar PV:

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Monday, 1 September 2008

Sandhills school pupils interviewed on BBC Radio 4

Two pupils from Sandhills School, which won an Ashden Award this year were
featured on BBC Radio Four's programme for children, 'Go 4 It', broadcast on
31 August.

Check out the Go 4 It website, and listen to the programme (available for a few days only)

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Visiting Ashden Award winners in East Africa

Ben Dixon, programme manager on the Ashden Awards team, has just returned from a trip around East Africa, working with past Ashden Award winners. Here's a report on his trip.

I’m just back from East Africa, having spent almost three weeks working with Ashden Award winners in Ethiopia and Tanzania. It is always inspiring to see the amazing social, environmental and economic benefits that Ashden Awards winners are delivering in the communities where they work – and this trip was no exception.

I started off in Addis Ababa, where I was able to attend a workshop that the Gaia Association (2008 winners) had organised to celebrate winning their Ashden Awards with all of the partners that have supported their work. This workshop had impressive high-level attendance from the Ethiopian government, including three government ministers and the head of the government’s Environmental Protection Agency. All were very supportive of Gaia’s plans to work with their private sector partner (Makobu Enterprises) on scaling up their manufacture and supply of ethanol stoves for urban areas, and providing ethanol stoves for more refugee camps in the north of the country (partnering with the UNHCR). It was also great to meet some of their customers in Addis, who are very happy with their stoves. We are working to connect Gaia with sources of support as they build their business plan and identify the finance they will need to achieve their scale-up goals.

Next was Tanzania, where we have three winning projects (and one winner who has relocated from Rwanda).

Zara Solar (2007 winner), based in Mwanza in the north-west of the country, are one of Tanzania’s leading suppliers of solar products. I was able to visit the villages and institutions where Zara has installed solar systems, and see some of the ways in which solar electricity is transforming their customers’ lives. Lighting of course (replacing dirty and expensive kerosene lamps), mobile phone charging, fridges, satellite TV, and even a piano synthesiser! Zara is working on two new strategic projects: developing new products for Lake Victoria’s fishermen, who use polluting kerosene lamps to attract fish to their nets, and working with local credit agencies that can provide loans to help their customers overcome the barrier of the upfront costs of purchasing a solar system (which will pay for itself in reduced fuel costs).

Mwanza Rural Housing and Food Security Project (MRHP) (2006 winner) are also based in Mwanza. They are an NGO providing housing, agricultural, and energy services to rural communities around Mwanza. They won an Ashden Award for their sustainable brick-making programme, training local entrepreneurs to fire bricks using agricultural waste (rice husks) rather than firewood. It is amazing to see the transformational effect this programme has had in the region – everywhere we travelled there were smoking brick kilns fuelled by rice husks, and rice farmers are now selling rice husks to brick makers (they used to pay people to take them away). We discussed MRHP’s plans for the future, which include expansion of their brick programme and commercialisation of a programme to provide energy saving stoves for rural and urban people. We will be providing support in the form of a professional volunteer organised through the Scottish charity Challenges Worldwide.

Kisangani Smith Group (KSG), are based in Njombe in the south-west of Tanzania. This group of blacksmiths won a 2008 Ashden Award for the design and production of a cooking stove that runs on sawdust – a waste product from the local timber industry. We spent some time looking at their plans for scale-up of their stoves business, and then travelled out of the city to the village of Mkiyu, where KSG have a training workshop for local youths. They have plans for a micro-hydro project to supply electricity to the workshop, the village, and a local secondary school – we visited the proposed site and also were lucky to see two neighbouring micro-hydro projects (one working, one under construction). It is truly eye-opening to see the engineering that is used to build these projects in remote areas, and to see the impact of bringing electricity to places where development is so constrained by the absence of energy for lighting houses and schools and carrying out income-generating activities such as agricultural processing.

Finally, a special mention to Ainea Kimaro, who won an Ashden Award for his biogas programme in prisons in Rwanda (he was working at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, Ashden Award winner in 2005). Now living in Tanzania, we met and I heard all about his biogas plans for Tanzania – exciting and top secret for now, so watch this space!

Ben Dixon

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Friday, 29 August 2008

Arun District Council rewarded with £15,000 for energy saving efforts

Arun’s Chairman accepted a cheque for £15,000 at a Full Council meeting after the Council finished runners up in the world’s leading green energy awards.

The Council was awarded the prize money for finishing second in the Local Authority category of the prestigious Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy back in June.

Councillor Ashvin Patel and Deputy Head of Environmental Health Roger Wood accepted the prize money, presented by Simon Brammer on behalf of the Ashden Awards, which will be used to expand the Council’s energy efficiency programme.
Cllr Patel said: “I am delighted to accept this cheque on behalf of the Council and its Environmental Health department in recognition of their achievements in energy saving.

“To be recognised as one of the leading authorities in the country when it comes to sustainable energy is an incredible achievement and one that deserves commending.

“I know that this money will be put to great use, improving our energy efficiency programme even further and ensuring that Arun continues to promote sustainable energy amongst its residents.”

Some of the prize money will be used to further promote the excellent services the Council already offers, while the rest will go towards developing a Renewable Energy Support Service.

This will offer information about the provision of sustainable energy for homes and businesses, in particular the use of solar energy and ground source heat pumps, a system that transfers heat from the ground into a building to heat the open spaces.

Councillor Paul Dendle, Cabinet Member for Central Services, said: “As a local authority we are under enormous pressure to tackle climate change while continuing to meet the needs of the community. This award shows what can be achieved with limited resources, thanks to the hard work of Council staff and our partner organisations and the willingness of our residents to make their properties more energy efficient.”

Roger Wood, Deputy Head of Environmental Health, added: “As the cost of fuel continues to soar, fuel poverty is going to be a growing issue. We already have an excellent system in place to bring affordable and sustainable energy efficiency to our residents, but the prize money will allow us to develop this service to the benefit of everyone who lives and works in the District.”

For more information about the Awards and the finalists, visit

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Thursday, 21 August 2008

Kensa features on BSN

Kensa, one of the 2008 Ashden Award winners, have featured on British Satellite News. A nine and half minute video has been produced, going into detail about the company and their ground source heat pump technology, including a clip from the Ashden Awards ceremony.

Here's the video:

(If you can't see the video, view it by clicking here)

The transcript is available here.

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Monday, 11 August 2008

Additional photos from REDP

Renewable Energy Development Project (REDP), China, won an Ashden Award in 2008. Information on their Award-winning work with solar PV systems can be found on the Ashden Awards website, along with the official media photos. However, we also have some additional photos that may be of interest, so here they are. (You can click on each image to see a larger version)

The rural areas in Western China where REDP's solar PV systems are deployed:
Some of the people of the area:
Workers assembling PV systems:
Durability is important!
The PV systems ready for sale to customers:
PV customers, with their systems and the equipment powered by them:

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