Friday, 31 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Sarah picks the moment the 100th Object was unveiled

For the last in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Sarah Butler-Sloss, founder-director of the awards, picks the moment the solar-powered lantern was chosen as the 100th Object.

It was great news that the solar lantern was chosen as the 100th object. It's a small object, but it represents a solution to two of our biggest global problems: climate change and poverty.

How we tackle climate change and how we reduce poverty are vital questions to address if we are going to survive the 21st Century. Clean renewable energy has to be the energy of the future and affordable, accessible energy is crucial for ending poverty. The 100th object in the series meets both those challenges.

A History of the World was an extraordinary radio series and we were very lucky and honoured that Neil MacGregor came to speak at this year's awards. There have been many great moments for us this year, but what was so special about this moment, the moment the solar-powered lamp was chosen as the 100th Object, is that it introduced to a much much wider audience the sense of potential and empowerment that local sustainable energy brings. That lies at the heart of what the Ashden team is trying to achieve. For all of us at the awards, the 100th Object was a terrific boost.

Nick Stern says solar power can free communities from corrupt practices,
In one hour from the sun, we get enough energy for a year,
100th Object introduces us to “the noise of the day",
100th object reminds us of extraordinary amount the semiconductor transistor has done for 21st century life
100th Object going "to change the way we think",
After today's 99th Object, one more to go,
From 100th Object to 100s of solar projects,
What the Twitterverse thinks of 100th Object,
100th Object: "a story worthy of this generation",
Solar-powered lamp revealed as 100th Object,
Tomorrow’s vote on 100th Object keeps solar in the news,
Solar lamp an icon in social entrepreneurship
Will solar powered lamp be 100th Object?

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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Mike picks his trip to the Isle of Eigg

For the eighth in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Mike Pepler, UK awards manager, picks his trip to the Isle of Eigg.

When I visited the Isle of Eigg in February, I didn’t know whether they’d make it through to become a winner, but I was excited to be visiting them and seeing the work they’ve done.

Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust - 2010 Ashden Awards

The idea of a community taking responsibility for its own energy supply, as well as supplying their own water and a proportion of their own food, was very inspiring. To me, the people of Eigg are leading the way – showing the rest of us what we should be aspiring to.
Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust - 2010 Ashden Awards

The end result would look different in every community, of course, but the overall goal of supplying as much of the community’s needs as possible from the local area is one that is sure to help improve energy security and reduce CO2 emissions.
Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust - 2010 Ashden Awards

See also:
Simon picks the publication of Power to Our Neigbourhoods
Carla picks the moment AIDFI won BBC World Challenge

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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Jo picks seeing the installation of a biogas plant in India

For the seventh in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Jo Walton, head of communications, picks her trip to India and seeing the installation of a biogas plant at SKG Sangha.

For me it was visiting India and seeing some of our winners' work in action. After five years at the Ashden Awards, to actually see this work on the ground really making a difference, was incredibly inspiring.

It was wonderful to be there when they were the building a biogas plant at SKG Sangha! But I also saw SELCO's solar home systems lighting up people's homes and TIDE's solar greenhouses providing fresh food and an income for women and children. The trip was a great privilege.

See also:
Simon picks the publication of Power to Our Neigbourhoods
Carla picks the moment AIDFI won BBC World Challenge
Jane picks the moment the finalists arrived in London

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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Mariana picks the launch of the Ashden India Collective

For the sixth in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Mariana Mason, international programme manager, picks the launch of the Ashden India Collective.

It was exciting to go to India this July and officially launch the Ashden Indian Collective. Close to 15 of our Indian winners attended, along with Government of India, investors and NGOs. We held the event in partnership with, and thanks to the support, of DFID India. The group will draw on their experience to develop policy recommendations for the government to widen the use of decentralised renewable energy.

See also:
Simon picks the publication of Power to Our Neigbourhoods
Carla picks the moment AIDFI won BBC World Challenge
Jane picks the moment the finalists arrived in London

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Energy security - how saving energy at home and work can help

Mike Pepler, our UK awards manager, recently posted an analysis of the UK gas supply situation on his own blog, you can read it here.

Using publicly available data from the National Grid, he's plotted some graphs comparing the amount of gas the UK has in storage, and comparing this winter to a year ago. Due to the cold weather, and the declining gas output from the North Sea, storage levels are much lower than they were at this point a year ago. This could present a problem if the rest of this winter is colder than average.

UK long range gas storage 2008-9 and 2009-10

If supplies do run low, part of the process to deal with the situation includes a public appeal to reduce gas use. Reducing electricity use helps too, as about 40% of our electricity is generated from gas. A shortage of gas will also push up gas and electricity prices, so by taking action to reduce your energy use you can yourself some money, help improve energy security and reduce CO2 emissions, all at the same time!

Take a moment to visit some of our recent blogs about saving energy:
Nine solutions that work to combat rising fuel prices
Save energy, save money: cavity walls

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Thursday, 23 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Gloria picks Sir David Attenborough's speech

For the fifth in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Gloria Dawson, Policy and Research Officer, picks Sir David Attenborough's speech at the 2010 Awards ceremony.

My Awards moment of the year was Sir David Attenborough's speech at the Awards; he so enthusiastically embraced and praised the positivity of our award-winners' stories. For me, the most important bit was where he said that we have, as humans, started to undergo a fundamental moral change in our relationship to the planet; we have realised that it is wrong to take and not give back, to despoil the Earth's resources without regard for other living creatures and organisms and their future. He likened this moral change to the shift in opinion in the 19th century over the justifications for the slave trade. I do so hope he is right.

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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Anne picks the moment GERES sold its one millionth cookstove

GERES, Cambodia - 2006 Ashden Award winner
For the fourth in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Anne Wheldon, Technical Manager, picks the moment GERES sold its one millionth improved cookstove.

I was really encouraged when I found out how much one of our past winners, GERES in Cambodia, had progressed since winning an Award in 2006. Not just that the sales of their improved stove had exceeded one million, but that it was now in use in nearly half the urban households in Cambodia. That’s what we need everywhere, sustainable energy technology becoming mainstream.

(pic: Mrs Samith using one of the 'New Lao' stoves, Chak Angre Krom, Meanchey District, near Phnom Penh)

See also:
Simon picks the publication of Power to Our Neigbourhoods
Carla picks the moment AIDFI won BBC World Challenge
Jane picks the moment the finalists arrived in London

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

UK National Grid issues first Gas Balancing Alert of the winter

This evening the National Grid in the UK issued the first Gas Balancing Alert for the 2010/11 winter. The latest status for gas supply can be viewed on their information website.

According to the National Grid:

The purpose of the Gas Balancing Alert (GBA) is to provide a signal to the market that demand-side reduction and/or additional supplies may be required to avoid the risk of entering into a Network Gas Supply Emergency.
The issuing of this alert is therefore a signal to the gas market in the UK that action needs to be taken to ensure security of supply, and in the past this action has always been successful. The action is typically large industrial gas users reducing their consumption, or new short-term supplies being acquired, either from gas storage or through extra imports.

So what does this mean for gas and electricity consumers in the UK? Domestic supply will be guaranteed, but prices will inevitably be pushed up further still. Gas prices will rise as a direct result, but also electricity prices, as over 40% of our electricity is generated by burning gas.

What can you do? Well, you could start by reading some of our past blogs on how to save energy and therefore save money:
Nine solutions that work to combat rising fuel prices
Save energy, save money: cavity walls

What should we be doing as a country? The standard industry and government response is to build more pipelines or LNG import terminals - but building facilities does not guarantee there will be gas flowing through them, as that depends on the market and the suppliers. It also doesn't help the UK balance of payments, or help cut CO2 emissions. While extra import facilities may be useful, the first action that must be taken is to reduce consumption through demand management and efficiency, as we mentioned just last week on this blog.


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Friday, 17 December 2010

Existing Homes Alliance advises Green Deal: benefits would mean less CO2, more local jobs & lower energy bills

Northwards Housing - 2010 Ashden Awards
This month, the government introduced the Energy Bill into Parliament as part of its new Green Deal. The Existing Homes Alliance also recently published recommendations to ensure government efforts help the UK to refurbish its existing housing stock – to bring it in line with the UK’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

Their recommendations cover key areas of the Green Deal. The first is finance: policies must allow the most to be made from the economic opportunities of widespread refurbishment – estimated between £5-15 billion. Secondly, the Existing Homes Alliance stresses that the government must place attention on how the work will be done - by investing in tradesmen and exploring area-based schemes for example - and done well. Shoddy work will make a dent in consumer demand for these changes. Thirdly, the government needs to focus on driving demand, regulating minimum energy performance is a necessary ‘stick’, but ‘carrots’ are also important.

Simon, our UK Business Support Manager, also works with the Existing Homes Alliance. He thinks making these changes will stimulate wider benefits:

"Creating demand for uptake of energy efficiency measures and stimulating the behaviour change that is needed to meet our carbon reduction targets is a tall order – but we can learn a lot from many of our Award winners who have worked hard to engage local communities, help them understand the issues, and take action. If, as a result of rising to this challenge, we get more local jobs, a more buoyant local economy and lower energy bills, then everyone wins."

(Pic: House on the right has been refurbished, including external wall insulation, by 2010 Award winners Northwards Housing)

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Simon picks the publication of Power to our neighbourhoods

For the third in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Simon Brammer, UK programme manager, picks the publication of Power to our neighbourhoods.

For me one of the best moments of 2010 was the publication of our research in June which was a culmination of a year's work and contained the wisdom of many of our UK winners.

The report drew on current best practice to demonstrate how we can cut energy bills, reduce CO2, create jobs and help secure our energy future by scaling up and replicating local sustainable energy programmes.

The work has been well received and is having a direct impact on UK policy.

Briefing paper
Executive summary
Full report

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If Chris Huhne doesn't back renewables, the costs will be even higher

The Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, will outline government plans today to encourage energy companies to develop low-carbon power plants. The BBC reports the government is to guarantee prices for electricity to persuade the private sector to invest in new low-carbon forms of generation. The Daily Telegraph headlines the story £500 on electricity bills to pay for green energy. Mike, our UK Awards Manager, explains

Ultimately, as electricity consumers, we all have to pay for the equipment that generates electricity. As we’re facing a future with rising fossil fuel prices, to build gas or coal power stations because they’re cheap is short-sighted. If we build renewable energy generation capacity, then not only do we not have to pay for fuel imports, we also have better security of supply, and will be closer to meeting out targets on CO2 emissions.

The BBC report is accompanied by a photo of a row of wind turbines out at sea. But as Anne Wheldon, our Senior Adviser, points out.

The extra cost is not just for renewable energy. Much of the extra cost will go to nuclear power, which is included in the new generation of power plants. The BBC reports that nuclear will not receive specific subsidies, but it also mentions that there will be feed-in-tariffs for nuclear. Let's make sure that the main focus is renewable electricity, otherwise we’re trading climate change for the other long-term problem of nuclear waste management.

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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Carla picks the moment AIDFI won BBC World Challenge

In the second in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Carla Jones, Communications assistant, picks the moment the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation (AIDFI) won BBC World Challenge.

I'd like to nominate the moment that AIDFI won the BBC World Challenge. It was great to have been able to chart their progress over the past six months, from first hearing they had been nominated in July and watching the film on the World Challenge website, to that nail-biting final week of voting when they were in the front running, to hearing they had won the overall prize. And it was brilliant to be able to use our blog, twitter and facebook pages to support them and spread the word!

See also:AIDFI now in Top Three for BBC World Challenge
AIDFI works hard for votes in last week of BBC challenge
AID foundation selected as finalist for BBC World Challenge
Blog Action Day: Ram pumps provide freshwater for 50,000 people

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The Cancun agreement on "technology transfer" is short on detail

Gloria Dawson, our policy and research officer, assesses the future for technology transfer after Cancun

The United Nations Climate Change Summit in Cancun, Mexico ended with an agreement to limit average temperature rises by 2 degrees Centigrade and establish a forest protection scheme and a climate adaptation fund.

As I blogged last week, a formal international agreement on technology transfer was also one of the hoped-for outcomes. There is a new agreement to establish centres for technology transfer. But this agreement doesn't have any numbers attached to it. There is no indication how these centres will be funded, where the centres will be, or who will administer them. Without these details, it may be some time until this mechanism becomes a reality.

One of our winners, GERES, attended the Cancun summit and called for vulnerable communities in poorer countries to be able to access money from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for emissions-reducing projects. Although agreements at Cancun over the CDM only concerned larger mitigation projects (e.g Carbon Capture and Storage), GERES has said they are committed to remaining part of policy discussions on this issue at UN and international levels.

GERES is head of an expert panel on "suppressed demand" and that panel will publish a report on the subject in time for the Africa Carbon Forum in Morocco in April 2011.

Short summary of Cancun here.

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Award-winning presents for Xmas: solar lamps

In the last in her series on award-winning presents, Juliet Heller suggests lighting up someone’s Christmas with a solar LED lamp

D.light produces an excellent range of hard-wearing and reliable solar lanterns that are changing peoples’ lives in those parts of the world where there is no grid electricity. Instead of using smoky, dangerous kerosene lamps, people can now enjoy clean, bright light at the flick of a switch, and also charge their mobiles.

D.light Design is a ground-breaking social enterprise set up three years ago by two Stanford University graduates. It has improved the lives of over two million people in 40 countries.

Now, in response to popular demand, two of these innovative solar lanterns are available on Amazon UK, just in time for Christmas. The S250 is priced £30.00 and includes an LED light, mini solar PV panel and charger. The smaller S10 lantern is just £10.00.

See also:
Award-winning presents for Xmas: Eco Top Trumps
Award-winning presents for Xmas: energy monitors
Award-winning presents for Xmas: the cookstove

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Best Ashden Moments 2010: Jane picks the moment the finalists arrived in London

In the first in our end-of-year series, where members of the Ashden team choose favourite moments from the year, Jane Howarth, Awards administrator, picks the moment the finalists arrive in London.

The moment I'd choose is meeting the finalists at the hotel on the Sunday before awards week starts. We have tea, show them their films and brief them on the week to come.

The hotel is the Grange Strathmore Hotel, a small cosy hotel in Kensington. We have afternoon tea, the finalists each give a short introduction about themselves and their work, and we tell them what will happen during the week and answer any questions they may have.

They each watch the short films that have been made about them, in a separate room, one at a time - we don't let the finalists see each others' films at this stage as they are still preparing to meet the judges for their final interviews. We get a very positive reaction to the films.

After tea, we take them on the tube to the office so that they know the route (three stops on the District line) and don't lose their way to the interview the following day.

As the Awards administrator, it's great to meet them all in person after many months of emailing. And it's also a relief to know that they've all made it to London!

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Monday, 13 December 2010

The idea that Britain can either have clean energy or cheap energy ignores the third option: saving energy

There are some fairly uncomfortable facts in the Economist's latest article on energy in the UK, Clean and green for a price.

One is that Britain ranks 3rd lowest out of 27 European countries in producing renewable energy (one above Malta and Luxembourg). Another is that renewables account for 3% of total energy consumption at the moment, and the government has signed up to an EU target to reach 15% by 2020. A third is that Britain pays £1 billion a year in subsidies for renewables.

But the Economist article frames the situation in the narrow terms of either/or. The intro sums it up: Britain can have clean energy or cheap energy, but not both. But there is a third option that the Economist has ignored. What about energy efficiency and managing energy demand?

Mike Pepler, our UK awards manager, says,

"Savings are vital and there's a difference here between demand management and energy efficiency: efficiency is switching from a big car to a small car for the commute to work; demand management is working from home instead."

It takes time for renewables to come on stream and, since we don't have the luxury of time, it puts an added emphasis on behavioural change. This means that the most sensible order in which we should tackle the energy challenge is: (i) reduce demand (ii) improve efficiency and (iii) use renewables. As Mike says,

Doing things in this order delivers the quickest and cheapest savings, but it puts the responsibility on individuals to make decisions to change the way they live - which is the way it probably should be.

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Friday, 10 December 2010

If shipping were a country, it would be the 6th biggest carbon emitter in the world. Now a database monitors it.

If the shipping industry were a country, it would be the sixth-biggest industrial carbon emitter in the world. The Carbon War Room has set up a website designed to rate ships as if they were refrigerators or boilers. will provide data on 60,000 vessels, giving them a rating between A (clean) and G (dirty).

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In a Senegal village, one wind turbine leads to a "building boom"

Oxfam researcher John McGrath visits a village in Senegal, well off the national grid, that has a wind turbine, towering above the baobabs, and a plane of solar panels. Cables lead off to every house and people pay any one of four tariffs, based on how much power they use. The result?

McGrath says there's a new pride, people talk about a “revival of the town”, young people who'd left for the capital are coming back, and people from surrounding areas are moving in, buying land and building houses.

McGrath writes: "A building boom was visibly in progress."

See also: Practical Action's report highly relevant to Ashden winners and Helping to lift people out of poverty also helps cut carbon emissions

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Award-winning presents for Xmas: Eco Top Trumps

Here's one for the Christmas stocking.

An Ashden Award winner in 2009, the Shropshire energy charity Marches Energy Agency inspires communities to adopt low carbon lifestyles.

One of MEA's successful initiatives was Eco Vehicle Top Trumps. MEA says:

Our pack contains 30 different vehicles, from vans to bikes, busses to sports cars. Vehicles include conventionally powered low emission cars such as the Toyota Aygo and alternatives such as biodiesel, bioEthanol, bioMethane and electrically powered engines.

When it was first produced, a pack of Eco Vehicle Top Trumps were sent to each of the 3000 secondary schools in the UK. With only a few packs now left, make sure you order yours soon. They're available on eBay.

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

D.light solar lanterns attracts wide interest at BA's conservation day

British Airways' Communities and Conservation Day showcased a range of projects it supports (including the Ashden Awards) in the atrium of their offices at Terminal Five. Throughout yesterday, BA staff mixed with 34 NGOs, charities and social enterprises. Suzy and myself were there and found plenty of interest in d.light lanterns.

Amigos is a charity working with young people in Uganda. It has introduced d.light lanterns at its training centre, Kira Farm. Amigos director Phil Pugsley said that each day the cook Mary lays out 15 Nova lamps in their field to charge in the sunlight, in the evenings they light up the main rooms. In a country where load shedding is common practice, this reliable source of energy makes all the difference. What's more, Phil explained, there's a health benefit to solar lighting:

“Currently we can’t give our children mosquito nets because of the fire risk. If they used kerosene lamps, the naked flames could catch on the netting and get taken straight up to the thatched roofs. With solar, this risk is gone.”

After inspecting the d.light lanterns on the Ashden stall, Geoff Booker, from the
Quicken Trust asked for contact details so he could see if he could get these lanterns to 1000 students in Kabubbu, Northern Uganda. Geoff said:

“This could make a massive difference to their lives. When the students finally get down to homework, after chores at about nine at night, kerosene is a poor source of lighting.”

Another visitor to the stall, also interested by the d.light lantern, was Nikki from
One, an initiative that supports the building of PlayPumps® in Southern Africa. These water pumps, built in schools are powered by the action of children playing on merry-go-rounds, that brings water up from underground.

(Pic: Carla speaks to BA staff)

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Chris Huhne says insulating homes "a no brainer"

Following on the same theme as yesterday's blog about nine solutions that work to combat rise in fuel prices, today the BBC reports that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has unveiled a plan to insulate the UK's draughty housing stock.

After 2012, people will be able to approach their energy supplier for a loan to cover the cost of insulation, instead of paying in advance.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said the deal - which is part of the Energy Bill - would "make upgrading our nation's draughty homes a no brainer".

See also: the Green Deal "needs to be flexible" to help the fuel poor

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Nine solutions that work to combat rising fuel prices

Three companies - British Gas, ScottishPower and Scottish & Southern – have announced price rises in recent weeks. At the same time, freezing weather and snow across Britain has boosted energy demand.

Jim Dale, senior risk meteorologist at British Weather Services told Bloomberg News that December may be the coldest in more than 30 years. “We are expecting a return to Arctic weather including blizzards and deep frosts from around Dec. 17.”

The Arctic weather has pushed up demand for both electricity and gas. Between 35-40% of the UK’s electricity is generated by burning gas, so the prices are linked. Since the price of gas has risen in recent days, it has also become more attractive for generators to switch to coal or oil, causing a rise in carbon emissions. (Carbon emission permits have also gone up in price.) The most expensive form of power generation is oil, so this too will have an impact on electricity prices.

The UK’s natural gas storage facilities are currently about 70% full, compared to 95% this time last year. If temperatures continue below average, we can expect to see prices go even higher, as we'll be forced to import more gas when storage runs low.

If that's not bad enough, today's Independent reports that energy prices may rise by 25% over 10 years.

The best option, of course, is to manage demand. The best way to do that is through energy efficiency and home insulation. The best people to follow are our Ashden Award winners. Here are nine inspirational approaches within the UK:

Kirklees Council, Huddersfield has rolled out free insulation to its residents.

Second Nature has developed and marketed effective roof-insulation material made from sheep's wool.

Northwards Housing, Manchester has converted housing stock into energy-efficient homes with no charge to tenants.

Leeds City Council has improved the energy efficiency of housing by over 21% since 1996.

Arun District Council, West Sussex has introduced energy efficiency throughout its operations.

Energy Agency, Ayrshire used a community fund to promote energy efficiency intensively in three local villages.

Cumbria Energy Efficiency Advice Centre provides an integrated service of advice, funding and installation for home insulation.

Community Energy Plus provides free energy efficiency advice and efficiency measures

Gloucestershire Warm and Well has linked seven local authorities with a range of organisations working on health and community support.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

GERES argues in Cancun for changes in CDM funding to help poorest communities

The French NGO GERES - an Ashden winner in 2006 and in 2009 - has been to Cancun to participate in roundtable discussions about the Clean Development Mechanism.

GERES argues that because communities in the most vulnerable countries of the South have very low levels of CO2 emissions, they cannot take advantage of CDM funding.

If carbon-sparing technological solutions were introduced, these same communities could, however, benefit from better access to energy services, lighting and drinking water, while maintaining a constant emission level.

Swan Fauveaud, manager of the GERES Climate Change Unit, gives this example of the "vicious circle" at work.

In Ladakh, the introduction of passive solar greenhouses and better home insulation can raise the indoor temperature by 15 degrees celsius. According to current CDM accounting standards, this type of activity does not result in any eligible emission reductions because villagers living in poverty cannot afford to heat their homes. That's one of the paradoxes of the CDM!

pic: A woman in Ladakh harvests fresh produce in a solar greenhouse

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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Helping to lift people out of poverty also cuts carbon emissions

The Green Futures editor-in-chief, Martin Wright, argues in the Guardian that the idea of having to choose between tackling poverty and tackling climate change is nonsense.

Martin, an Ashden Awards judge, says there's no reason you can't tackle climate change and energy poverty simultaneously.

Indeed, you will struggle to do one without the other. Pretty much every energy technology which helps lift people out of poverty – clean, efficient cookstoves; clear bright solar lights; and, in the developed north, a crash programme of energy efficiency for vulnerable homes – will also cut carbon emissions.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Cancun delegates discussing "technology transfer" should remember that it's already happening

Much of the media coverage of COP16 has focused on disagreements over the UN-administered fund for mitigation and adaptation in poorer countries. But, writes Gloria Dawson, our policy and research officer, aid money is not the only help that developed countries can give to those already affected by climate change.

In the likely event of a failure to reach a legally binding agreement at Cancun on reducing CO2 emissions, technology transfer is one of the "back door" areas where there may still be significant agreement and progress.

In the context of climate change, technology transfer means nations sharing existing technologies and working together to develop new technologies which help countries adapt to or mitigate climate change. Expertise about wind turbine technology, or plans for solar micro-grids, or techniques for more water- and energy-efficient farming can be adapted from one country to another to meet specific needs.

This knowledge can be transferred directly through the public or private sector by relaxing certain patents or it could be brokered through existing UN mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Technology transfer could also be supported through new international institutions. This is already happening in places, but there is still no formal international agreement to support it.

The Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said that helping poor nations adapt to the effects of warmer temperatures should be a higher priority than reaching legally binding emissions reduction agreements. Right now in Cancun, delegates are discussing plans for a network of innovation centres to help developing countries. A key role for an international Climate Technology Centre would be identifying the specific needs of individual countries.

States and transnational corporations will always disagree over the degree to which intellectual property can should be shared. The representatives of rich countries often argue that, as most technological innovations are developed, registered and manufactured in developed countries, a relaxation of patents on technology inhibits technological innovation.

But technology transfer is already a large part of what Ashden Award winners do. The winners scale up small sustainable energy projects, by disseminating skills, expertise and technology that make sustainable energy more widespread and effective. Our winners work with governments and the private sector, but they also skill up ordinary people and share their knowledge and innovations as widely as possible.

A good example is Aprovecho Research Centre, an Ashden Award winner in 2006 (with ProBEC, S.Africa) and 2009 (with SSM, China). Aprovecho builds fuel-efficient wood stoves that are appropriate to a wide range of needs. They build relationships with producers of stoves in different countries to create the best stoves that can be produced by local people at low cost.

At their Rocket Stove website, you can see many of these designs, as well as the online tool they have developed to help people design and build their own rocket stove. This is an impressive example of technology transfer in action, devolving knowledge and skills to those who need it, for little or no money.

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Monday, 6 December 2010

Practical Action's new report highly relevant to Ashden winners

Practical Action’s inaugural Poor People's Energy Outlook - published today - discusses the energy poverty of more than 1.5 billion people in terms that are highly relevant to the Ashden Awards and Ashden winners. The report:

- highlights the inefficiency of countries having a national, grid-based energy plan/framework rather than thinking about decentralised power

- stresses that inefficient cookstoves waste time, money and damage health

- criticises the huge lack of information and access at community/local levels for affordable sustainable energy

- emphasises that energy access is a basic precondition for development

- outlines a ‘minimum standard’ of energy access for households worldwide.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Ashden-winner AIDFI wins BBC's World Challenge

On Saturday, BBC World News broadcast the final of the World Challenge 10 series. The winner was 'The Only Way is Up', the ram pump project from the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation (or AIDFI).

The Philippines-based initiative - which won an Ashden Award in 2007 - uses the power of a river's flow to push water uphill. AIDFI has introduced the pump to over 170 villages.

There were 800 nominations from over 70 countries, from which 12 projects were selected. More than 167,000 people round the world voted online for their favourite. 'The Only Way is Up Project' received US $20,000 prize from Shell.

(Pic: Auke Idzenga, Programme Director, receives award at BBC World Challenge ceremony)

See also: AIDFI now in Top Three for BBC World Challenge
AIDFI works hard for votes in last week of BBC challenge
AID foundation selected as finalist for BBC World Challenge
Blog Action Day: Ram pumps provide freshwater for 50,000 people

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Our winners broadcast globally over the weekend

This Saturday, films of our winners are being shown across the world. The Rural Energy Foundation and the partnership between the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and SNV will have their stories shared in CancĂșn. Their films will form part of a festival put on by the International Institute for the Environment and Development (IIED) as part of their Development and Climate Days side event. To be screened in the morning slot, they will form part of the five shorts presented under the theme 'Techonology and Adaptation: shifting towards sustainable energy production'.

On the other side of the globe in Japan, SELCO will feature in a programme analysing India's fast developing economy. To be broadcast nationally, the half-hour programme, 'Dynamic India', includes an interview with SELCO's founder Harish Hande. Harish is asked to shed light, from a social enterprise perspective, on the key to India's growth. The programme will be streamed live from NHK's website homepage and can be watched at 2:10, 6:10, 10:10, 3:10, 17:10 and 22:10 UTC (equivalent to GMT ).

(pic: Harish Hande, Founder of SELCO on 'Dynamic India' courtesy of NHK)

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Thursday, 2 December 2010

New list ranks top US states for solar energy

A new report lists the top states in America for solar power. The Huffington Post reports new research from Arizona State University, on the "Optimal Deployment of Solar Index" (OSDI), provides a ranking of ideal states for solar power based on a range of considerations:

Ideal states should have: a relatively high level of solar insolation (ability to generate a significant amount of solar energy), a fairly large amount of economic activity resulting from solar energy being deployed, a reasonably low cost of energy installation, higher than average current prices for electricity, and the potential for electricity production through solar power that would offset large amounts of carbon emissions.

Top of the list is Hawaii (pic). California - the Sun State - only makes 30th on the list.

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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Award-winning presents for Xmas: energy monitors

Do you know anyone who loves gadgets, likes to save money, and cares about the planet? If so, Juliet Heller knows the perfect present.

The OWL energy monitor, and similar gadgets like the Efergy, are really easy to use, but beware, they are quite addictive. I gave one to my partner a few years ago and he’s obsessed with it. He checks the temperature and electricity consumption several times a day. But I mustn’t complain. It’s cut our electricity bills by 25%.

Then I gave one to my nephew Max for his 16th birthday (really, he asked for one). Max likes gadgets and enjoys fixing electrical equipment. Now he’s Mr Energy Monitor around the house too, and is using the OWL for a school project that studies why rooms in the house are different temperatures.

Jo, our Head of Communications, says she's a compulsive OWL watcher at home.

“It’s been quite an education. I was amazed to see how electricity use surges when one of us switches on the kettle or the vacuum cleaner. And it’s great for checking if things are left on, which often happens with young children (and forgetful husbands)."

Jo encourages schools to get a monitor as the first step towards sustainability. The Ashden Awards runs a project called LESS CO2 (Low Energy Sustainable Schools) which motivates school leaders to reduce their energy consumption by working with some of our award-winning schools.

An energy monitor hasn't in itself won an Ashden Award, but OWL electricity monitors, for instance, allowed households on the Isle of Eigg to keep an eye on how much power they are using, and many schools who have won our awards, such as St Columb Minor School in Cornwall and Ringmer Community College in East Sussex, use energy monitors to track energy consumption and reduce electricity use. The teachers also use the data in maths and science lessons, which helps integrate climate change learning across the curriculum.

Another, more sophisticated tool, the Eco-Driver software programme is used by Ashley C of E Primary School in Walton on Thames to monitor the energy generated by their solar PV as well as their energy consumption. It helped reduce the school’s electricity use by 50 per cent in the first year.

The BBC News says the next generation of smart meters

“should cut electricity consumption by around 5%, so if all Brits used one the emissions savings would be roughly equivalent to taking 600,000 cars off the road.”

OWL monitors are available on Amazon for £25. It’s worth reading the reviews.

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Most popular 10 blogs in November

1. Save energy, save money: cavity walls (15 Nov 2010)

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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Steve Chu says US faces "Sputnik moment" with clean energy

The U.S. Secretary of State for Energy, Steven Chu, gave a speech at the National Press Club yesterday, in which he warned that "time is running out" in the race for clean energy technologies.

Dr Chu said that America may face another "Sputnik moment". In 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik 1, the first earth-orbiting space satellite.

A Nobel prize-winning physicist, Dr Chu believes that China and the E.U. may take the lead in clean energy technologies.

"Given the enormous economic opportunities in clean energy, it's time for America to do what we do best: innovate."

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Monday, 29 November 2010

How to talk about "sustainability"

The Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk (left) says that the way to talk about sustainability is in terms of processes in which individuals are making something sustainable.

It's so weird that sustainability is boring because the word "interest" both connotes your interests as a human being, your interest in staying alive, and your "interest" in being interested in something. So you would expect these things to converge.

But then, on this very threatening phenomenon of the destruction of our ecosphere, you can't get people interested. All sorts of things that are boring when they come out of a scientific journal, or a scandal, or a media moment, might be interesting when it is part of the hero's journey towards a desirable goal, sustainability.

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Friday, 26 November 2010

The Economist backs renewables as "a matter of justice"

The Economist's cover story today is: How to live with climate change. The paper says, 'It won’t be stopped, but its effects can be made less bad.' Climate change also provides

an extra reason for rich countries - which caused the problem in the first place - to find ways to help poor countries develop. That is a matter of justice, not just humanity.

The paper argues that prosperity is the best protection against global warming, but it recognises that as economies grow they consume more energy, which threatens to make the problem worse.

... rich countries can help, by offering poor countries support for greener energy technologies, and thus allowing them to make use of their capacity for generating renewable energy from water, wind and sunlight.

pic: Alamy/Corbis

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Three reasons why solar portable lights have a big future in Africa

A new report from Lighting Africa (above), a joint IFC and World Bank programme, says that solar portable lights could provide access to clean and safe lighting by 2015 to an estimated 65 million Africans, who are currently either un-electrified or under-electrified.

The report puts the potential for development down to three factors: significant improvement in the quality and performance of solar portable lights in the past five years; a decline in the retail price; and product features that have been adapted to meet consumer needs.

Download the full report

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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Award-winning presents for Xmas: the cookstove

Run out of ideas for Xmas gifts? Why not give an award-winning clean stove to a camping enthusiast?

These highly efficient rocket stoves are a simple but revolutionary technology that burn wood or charcoal and cut fuel use by 40 percent or more, reducing smoke and carbon monoxide emissions by more than 50 percent.

Efficient stoves like these tackle one of the scourges of the developing world. Indoor smoke kills 1.6 million people, mainly women and children, worldwide every year.

In 2009 we awarded our Energy Champion prize to the Oregon-based Aprovecho Research Center and SSM in China who together design and manufacture affordable and efficient rocket stoves used extensively in the developing world. The company that has been set up to sell the stove, StoveTec, has sold over 50,000 in countries like India, South Africa and Chile. They aim to reach the three billion worldwide who cook on smoky open fires and inefficient stoves.

But these stoves are also available in the UK. Order and get more information and reviews from UK retailers: Wild Stoves (all the money goes to Stove Tec)and Bell Tents

Or you could donate a rocket stove to a cook in Haiti for £8.00 or fund a stove in Africa for £6.50.

For more on improved cookstoves, read our 'Stoking up a cookstove revolution' report.

(pic: StoveTec rocket stove)

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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

UK faces double whammy of price rises and Arctic weather

The UK faces a double-whammy this month of price rises for gas and electricity (here here, and here) and the arrival of a blast of Arctic weather.

It's a good moment to check out our Ashden winners for home insulation (here and here) and remind ourselves of the achievements of Ashden school winners in making energy reductions.

See also Mike on saving £500 on his energy bills, Juliet on how to turn a small, cold, dark house into a Superhome and Simon on how the government's policy is shifting on fuel poverty.

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ashden winners go to INSEAD for advice on how to scale up

Last week, as part of the Ashden Business Support Programme, three of our past winners attended the world-class INSEAD Business School, on the outskirts of Paris, to help them scale up their renewable energy projects. The week-long INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme has been designed specially for those trying to balance social and financial sustainability. For each of our winners, the week came at a critical moment in their business transformation. Each left with valuable insights for the road ahead.

Mariana, our International Programme Manager also attended. When Mariana got back to the office yesterday she reported on the winners' progress:

Sky Link Innovators is facing a point of major decision: it now has to choose which biogas products to focus on and how to grow. Samwel (director) says he has left the course with a much clearer sense of the value of strategic partnerships and he is also thinking about how to manage his technicians to be as effective as possible.”

StoveTec, the commercial spin off from Aprovecho Research Center, is at a stage where it wants to massively scale up its sale of clean cookstoves over the next three years. Ben (director) has returned to work with a much clearer understanding of what models they can use to do this.”

“Lastly, Willem (director) from Rural Energy Foundation, has gained an understanding of how he might manage his staff more effectively as REF faces a turning point, as it moves from a foundation to a more financially sustainable social enterprise.”

“All of our winners left with a massive boost in energy and inspiration, overall it was the interaction and support from other social entrepreneurs facing similar challenges that they valued as well as hearing detailed case studies about how other amazing projects have managed to achieve scale”.

(pic: Mariana, Willem, Samwel and Ben at the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme)

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Monday, 22 November 2010

AIDFI now in top three for BBC World Challenge

AID Foundation: 2007 Ashden Award winner
(pic: children using water from AIDFI pumps in the Phillipines)

News today in the Visayan Daily Star announces that AIDFI (who won an Ashden Award in 2007) is in the top three projects shortlisted for BBC World Challenge. The overall winner will be announced on 29 November at a high-profile ceremony in Amsterdam. It looks as if AIDFI's hard work to secure votes is paying off.

See also:
Ram pumps provide fresh water
AID Foundation selected as finalist for BBC World Challenge

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Friday, 19 November 2010

D.light's solar lighting changes 2 million lives

D.light design, our 2010 International Gold Award winners, announced this week that its solar-powered lighting products has impacted on two million lives. The two million milestone was reached only eight months after the one million milestone. Since the launch of their product line in 2008, the social enterprise has sold solar lanterns to off-grid households in more than 40 countries.

The impact is impressive: d.light customers are saving $60 million over the lifetime of the products while increased productivity from access to better lighting puts another $65 million into the pockets of poor rural families. Furthermore, d.light lamps are reducing carbon emissions by 82,600 tonnes.

President Ned Tozun says:

“Our goal remains to replace every kerosene lantern with clean, safe and bright light. D.light will continue to push boundaries in affordability and effective distribution to reach every single household that does not have access to reliable electricity.”

The company’s goal is to impact 100 million lives by the end of 2020.

(Pic: D.light solar lamp owners in Tanzania)

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Green Deal "needs to be flexible" to help the fuel poor

With current hikes in fuel prices, the issue of lifting people out of fuel poverty is of growing concern. Fuel poverty is defined as when more than 10% of household income is spent on fuel bills. Today there are over 4.6 million people in the UK who are considered 'fuel poor'.

At an event yesterday, hosted by Eaga Charitable Trust, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners, came together to suggest how fuel poverty might be tackled in the light of predicted and continuing energy price rises.

Simon, our UK Business Support Manager, was there, and explains, here, how the solutions might work.

"Of course, the real solution lies in bringing the 26 million UK properties that are not efficient up to the energy efficiency standard of new homes."

"The current coalition government has announced the delivery of the ‘Green Deal’, which will replace programmes like Warm Front and the other of energy supplier obligations programmes that currently exist.

"What is being planned is a market-led ‘Pay As You Save’ scheme. Money for energy savings measures, like solid wall insulation, condensing boilers, or micro generation technologies, could be received in the form of a long-term loan which is paid back (in theory) by the energy savings the measures create."

"However, the ‘fly in the ointment’, for those in fuel poverty, is that taking out loans when you are already poor may not be attractive: you may use more energy as a result of having (say) central heating installed, rather than the one or two rooms you currently heat. As was discussed yesterday, paying back a loan rather than a fuel bill does not lift you out of fuel poverty."

"The Green Deal needs to be flexible enough to offer moderations to the scheme, so that it allows subsidies to be paid to poor households, so that the equations that work for those who are already in warm homes are also applicable to the fuel poor".

(pic: Ashden Award winners Kirklees Council has supported the installation of energy efficiency measures, such as this cavity wall installation, in houses across the region)

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Green Apple award goes to Eritrean cookstoves

(pic: Debasai with improved cookstove owner)

In 2003, Eritrea's Department of Energy Research and Training Center (or ERTC) won an Ashden Award for the design of a new stove for cooking traditional injera bread. Since then, 110,000 stoves have been installed across rural Eritrea.

This week the Eritrean Ministry of Energy and Mines (of which ERTC is a part) has gone on to win a Green Apple Award as International Gold Award Winner for the Built Environment. Debesai Gebrehiwet, ERTC's director, collected the award on Monday.

Yesterday Debesai dropped into the office with the new award. He stressed once again the impact that the cookstoves have on society in general.

“I knew I had to create a better design for existing cookstoves, to save energy, the environment and women. The cookstove is a family matter, because everyone is there, everyone is affected. Making a change with cookstoves makes a good change in the family and in society as a whole.”

Debesai also showed us some of the feedback he's getting. One user, Mrs Abeba Tsefamichael said,

“No words can express how much I am satisfied. As I am a mother of eight children, I have to bake Injera every three days. Thus, I used to consume almost two quintals of wood and animal dung per month. However from the time that I started making use of the modern Mogogo I have never consumed more than a quintal of fire wood per month."

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TV viewers get a tour of Juliet's SuperHome

Juliet's SuperHome was featured on last night's Anglia Tonight. It's online now. The intro runs:

For many of us, winter energy bills are a huge worry- but now a family from Essex have been showing how achieving 'superhome' status can change that. The refurbished house in Tollesbury has reduced its carbon footprint by at least 60 per cent.

How to turn a small, cold, dark house into a SuperHome
This Sunday you can visit Juliet's SuperHome

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Save energy, save money: cavity walls

The thermal image above shows heat loss in a row of houses. The house in yellow has cavity wall insulation. In the first in a new series 'Save Energy, Save Money', Mike Pepler explains the basics.

Most houses built since about 1920 have a 'cavity wall', which means there are actually two layers of bricks with a cavity between them.

When this cavity is filled with air, the walls account for about a third of the heat loss from an average house - and that's costing you money when you pay for your energy.

If the cavity is filled with an insulating material, the heat loss can be reduced by up to 70%, saving energy and saving you money - typically £110/year at 2010 prices.

How to tell if you have cavity walls
It's possible to tell what types of wall you have by looking at the pattern of the bricks. The Energy Saving Trust has a page showing you how to do this.

How to tell if your cavity walls are already insulated
Houses built since 1990s should have had their cavity walls insulated when they were built. If your house is older than that, but you don't know if a previous owner insulated the walls, you can tell by looking for places on the outside wall where holes have been drilled and filled with mortar.
cavity wall insulation installed
If you’re not sure, a free survey by an insulation company will determine whether insulation has been installed

Getting cavity wall insulation installed.
Cavity wall insulation needs to be professionally installed by a company registered with the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency. One of the easiest ways to find a reputable installer in your area is to contact your local council, as they will be able to recommend one to you and also help you with grants. Alternatively, you can contact the Energy Saving Trust for advice.

The full cost of cavity wall insulation for a 3-bedroom semi-detached house is about £500, but with the various grants available you should pay no more than £250, and perhaps a lot less. Depending on your age and income, it might even be free! With savings of around £110 a year, the payback is very quick.

The insulation is installed by drilling small holes in outer wall of the house:
Leeds City Council - 2008 Ashden Award winner

and then injecting foam or mineral wool to fill the cavity:
Kirklees Council - 2009 Ashden Award winner

Once the cavity is filled, the holes will be filled with mortar to reseal the wall.

What if you have solid walls?

If you don’t have a cavity wall, there are still ways of insulating the walls. We’ll be writing about these soon, but if you can’t wait, then the Energy Saving Trust has some advice.

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Forget 3% cuts: companies need big hairy audacious goals

When it comes to making rapid progress on sustainability issues within major companies, small is not always beautiful. William Todd, head of operations for PepsiCo UK and Ireland, says innovation is triggered by setting big hairy audacious goals:

"This forces us to look at every area of our operations and encourages ideas to bubble up. If you come up with a commitment, say to reduce energy by 3% next year, you will not get people engaged or any real financial engagement. But if you set an engaging vision, you can get a coalition of people excited by the possibilities."

See also: Jonathon Porritt says Unilever's environmental audit and sustainable agriculture plans are a gamechanger for the way global companies behave

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Sunday, 14 November 2010

College students cutting energy compete to be "biggest loser"

About 40 colleges in the U.S. and Canada are competing for "biggest loser" status by cutting energy and water use in the Campus Conservation Nationals. The competitors are using an online app called Building Dashboard (pic), which makes energy and water use visible in real time on the web. (Ht: CP.)

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Friday, 12 November 2010

Chris addresses delegates from 12 sub-Saharan countries on solar and stoves

Ashden Award winner Chris Mulindwa (left), from the Rural Energy Foundation, yesterday addressed 12 partner organisations from across sub-Saharan Africa on climate change and sustainable technologies.

He was guest speaker at a joint international workshop in Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria, organised by the Baring and John Ellerman Foundations.

This was a valuable opportunity for Chris to show the effectiveness of solar and stove equipment to delegates from Mauritania, Ghana, Chad, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and, of course, Uganda.

The purpose of the week had been to share experiences of working with displaced peoples and focus on women, rights and education. Chris wrote to us:

I am mainly going to talk about two challenges - indoor air pollution and lack of access to electricity. I will then share with the delegates some of the technologies available to deal with these challenges (efficient cook stoves and solar energy), the benefits gained from using these technologies (better health, income generation and saving and environmental conservation) and I will share with them the approach that Rural Energy Foundation has taken to diffuse these technologies (market development).

The Rural Energy Foundation won the 2010 Ashden Award for Africa, which was supported by the John Ellerman Foundation.

Update - Chris comments on the response: "A lot of interest was shown by the delegates. It was really eye opening for them, especially the statistics on the deaths caused by smoke and indoor pollution and the lack of access to electricity in Africa. They were also surprised about some of the new technologies which are more affordable like the D.light Kiran and the Barefoot Power Firefly...I've even received an invitation from one of the organizations that attended to talk about the same subject".

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Thursday, 11 November 2010

This evening's live webinar on campaigning and climate change

5pm-6pm: This blog is listening to the webinar about campaigning and climate change (5pm, London time). The first speaker "Pre-COP Communicating Climate Change" is Lorraine Whitmarsh (left), lecturer in Environmental Psychology. Whitmarsh says:

"The public is going to be asked to change energy use in profound ways."

"The evidence suggests that public engagement with climate change is pretty limited."

The next speaker Chris Rose, communications consultant and author of How To Win Campaigns contrasts reflexive and reflective thinking, and maps out society in terms of prospectors, settlers and pioneers. Rose says:

"Nearly all the calls for climate action have come from one bit of the map."

His advice? "Start from where people are - don't try to change minds by changing values."

"If you start by thinking you want to win an argument, it's almost always the worst way."

(Slides and recording of this Earthcast available 10am tomorrow.)

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Sir David picks 12 photographers for sustainability prize

The shortlist for the Third Prix Pictet, the prize for photography and sustainability, was announced today. The theme for this year is 'Growth'. A preview of the shortlisted photographers' works is on show at Galerie Filles du Calvaire, Paris, until 29 November.

The winner will be announced by HE Kofi Annan at the award ceremony in Paris on 17 March 2011. The shortlist was chosen by an independent jury from submissions by over 450 photographers.

The eight-member jury is chaired by Professor Sir David King, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at Oxford and an Ashden Advocate. Today's statement said the jury looked for photographic series of the highest artistic merit

that also presented a convincing narrative about the critical issues of sustainability and in particular, the theme of Growth. Growth, which lifts countless millions out of poverty, also has a huge and potentially unsustainable environmental cost. It presents one of the great conundrums facing humanity in the early decades of the twenty-first century.

Sir David said, "Any one of these twelve artists would be a worthy winner."

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Harish says, "Look at the need, tailor the product"

The travel writer Frank Bures visits Africa and reports on why technology is "Africa's latest, greatest poverty fighter". Bures' article considers the work of two Ashden Award winners: D.light Design and SELCO. Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, of D.light Design tells him,

"Providing bright light really impacts so many facets of people's lives. It essentially extends their day. It allows them to work for longer hours and more productively. It lets children study longer."

Harish Hande of SELCO says:

"In the traditional, top-down methodology, it's a one-sided supply chain, where the product goes down to the poor. We go from the opposite side. We look at what the need is, then tailor the product to the need."

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