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Sarah Butler-Sloss created the awards in 2001, from the Ashden Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts.
About the Ashden Awards
The Ashden Awards rewards and promotes local sustainable energy solutions in the UK and the developing world. Through the awards, they aim to raise awareness of the huge potential of local sustainable energy to both tackle climate change and improve the quality of people's lives. They aim to encourage its wider take-up across the world.
How the Awards make a difference
The Awards help transform the prospects of sustainable energy in several ways:
- By giving cash prizes, they help winners take their work forward.
- By actively promoting the winners and publicising their work through a worldwide media campaign, they aim to inspire others to follow their example.
- By bringing winners together with key decision-makers and opinion-formers, they aim to change thinking and policy among governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) alike.
The Ashden Awards also carries out research into the potential of local sustainable energy to meet the world’s energy needs and tackle climate change, and examine ways of overcoming the barriers to its wider adoption.
The UK Awards
In 2009, the Ashden Awards will be giving awards for the UK in the following categories:
- Energy business
- Local Authority
There are three first prizes of £30,000 each, and three second prizes of £15,000 each.
Energy Business Award
This award is for businesses which have made local renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services more accessible. We are particularly interested in enterprises which have opened up new opportunities. Previous winners like Kensa (2008), Dulas (2008), Ecotricity (2007), Solarcentury (2007), Good Energy (2006) and Second Nature (2005) have shown the type of entrepreneurial achievement which this Award recognises.
Local Authority Award
This award is for Local Authorities which have undertaken effective initiatives and programmes to improve energy efficiency and/or increase the supply of local renewable energy (heat and electricity), and also promoted the wider use of sustainable energy through local planning and policies. Previous winners like Leeds City Council (2008), Arun District Council (2008), Nottinghamshire CC (2007), Barnsley MBC (2006) and Kirklees MBC (2006) show the type of programme which this Award recognises.
This award is for not-for-profit groups such as Energy Agencies and charities, which have carried out projects or programmes to reduce energy demand and/or increase the supply of renewable energy (heat and electricity), at a local level. Previous winners like Global Action Plan (2008), The Energy Agency (2008), ENWORKS (2007), Severn Wye Energy Agency(2006) and Community Energy Plus (2005) are relevant to this category.
The UK Schools Award
This Award is open to any UK school, providing education for pupils aged between 5 and 16, which has developed both an ethos and practice of sustainability, in which the responsible use of energy is a key component. The Award carries a first prize of £15,000 and two second prizes of £7,500.
The International Awards
In 2009 there will be up to seven International awards of £20,000 each, and one Ashden Energy Champion Award of £40,000 for the work which most impresses the judging panel. All awards bring a package of benefits in addition to the prize money, including a short documentary film of the award-winning work, publicity, and longer-term development support.
Awards are given for the service to communities provided by the use of sustainable energy, rather than for the technology used. In 2009, awards will highlight the particular achievements of each winner, rather than be offered in specific categories, with the main areas of interest being:
- Food security
- Health, education and welfare
- Light and power for homes and businesses
Food security Renewable energy can be used in any part of the food supply chain, from growing, processing, storage and cooking, through to marketing and distribution. Relevant past winners include the Escorts Foundation (Pakistan, 2004) and Trees, Water and People (Honduras, 2005) for the development and dissemination of improved fuelwood stoves; Biotech (India, 2007) for the development of a pre-fabricated biogas digester for domestic and municipal use; IDEI (India, 2006) for dissemination of affordable pumps to provide water to irrigate food crops.
Health, education and welfare Renewable energy can be used directly in healthcare facilities and schools (including providing light, refrigeration, sterilisation and communications), and provide light for study at home. It can also bring improvements to health in homes or schools (including reducing smoke from stoves, and improving sanitation). Relevant past winners include RETAP (Kenya, 2001), which combined the introduction of a highly energy efficient cooking stove for schools with a scheme by which they can grow much of their own fuelwood in the school grounds; Engineers without Borders (Peru, 2003) for solar-powered communications systems for remote jungle health centres; KXN (Nigeria, 2005) for providing solar-powered vaccine refrigerators in Nigeria; GIRA (Mexico, 2006) for providing low-emission woodstoves and analysing their health benefits; and AID Foundation (Philippines, 2007) for hydraulic ram pumps delivering fresh water to remote villages.
Light and power for homes and businesses Renewable electricity can power clean, efficient portable lamps or fixed lighting for homes or community buildings both in areas which are not connected to grid power, and also where mains electricity is unreliable or unaffordable. Small scale renewable electricity can also enable businesses and social services to develop. Relevant past winners include Practical Action (Peru, 2007) for micro-hydro schemes which have brought electricity to homes and businesses in remote villages and Zara Solar (Tanzania, 2007) for delivering reliable solar PV systems for lighting and business in areas without access to the electricity grid.
Enterprise Businesses can play an important role in delivering renewable energy and encouraging its rapid spread. Some past winners are businesses, including SELCO-India (India, 2005) which built up a thriving business network supplying high-quality solar lighting systems, and Daxu (China, 2007) which commercialised an efficient household stove that can burn crop waste for water heating and cooking. The work of other winners has helped small businesses to develop, including MRHP (Tanzania, 2006) which trained and supported small brick-making businesses, and IDEI (India, 2006) which developed a supply-chain of small businesses to manufacture, sell and install water pumps.
The Awards Ceremony
The Ashden Awards hold an awards ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London in June, where the finalists present their achievements and receive their awards before an invited audience of politicians, business leaders, and key figures from the environment, development and energy worlds.
Previous hosts include broadcasters Anna Ford, John Humphrys and Jonathan Dimbleby and environmental journalist Mark Lynas.
Guest speakers over the last three years include Sir David King, Wangari Maathai, Al Gore, David Attenborough, Hilary Benn, the UK Secretary of State for International Development, Dr RK Pachauri, Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party and Lord May of Oxford, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government.
After presenting the prizes at the 2007 ceremony Al Gore commented:
"No one can attend an event like the Ashden Awards and fail to be inspired. We must find a path from an unsustainable present to a sustainable future.
What impresses me most about these projects is they truly are becoming the change that is needed in the world.These Awards tell us how to illuminate this path to a sustainable future together. I hope that we can make it quickly."
Ashden Awards Seminars
The Ashden Awards also holds specialist seminars bringing together Award winners with practitioners, academics, and those who make or influence policy. Examples of recent seminars are:
Awards week: Imperial College seminar
During the 2008 Awards week the Ashden Awards held their annual Imperial College seminar, where the finalists presented their work to an audience of 190 people, drawn from business, government, NGOs and education. The seminar was opened by Professor Sir Peter Knight, Principal of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Imperial College.
Each presentation started with a short film of the Award-winning work. The winners then summarised their work, focusing on what had made it so successful, and how it could be replicated or developed elsewhere. The seminar was an inspiring summary of a wide range of sustainable energy systems working successfully throughout the world – including efficient stoves burning crop waste in India, sawdust in Tanzania and ethanol produced from waste in Ethiopia; micro-hydro in Brazil; solar drying in Uganda and solar PV in India, Bangladesh and China. From the UK, finalists spoke about energy efficiency for homes and businesses, ground source heat pumps, renewable energy installation and work in schools to promote energy efficiency and renewable generation.
The seminar will be repeated during the 2009 Awards week.
Awards Week: International policy seminar
The International Policy Seminar was again held in partnership with DFID in 2008. The title ‘Scaling up low-carbon energy’ reflected the growing interest in the impacts of climate change and development. Both DFID staff and senior representatives from other development organisations attended the seminar.
Three finalists were selected as speakers, to give a range of technology and geography along with different perspectives on sustainable energy and climate change. Dipal Barua (Grameen Shakti, Bangladesh) described how Technology Centres had been set up in Bangladesh to train women as entrepreneurs to install solar home lighting systems, and had now expanded into efficient stoves and biogas plants. João Alderi do Prado (CRERAL, Brazil) explained how his co-operative had been construction mini-hydro systems to supply electricity in rural areas, creating new business opportunities and raising the standard of living. Angello Ndyaguma (Fruits of the Nile, Uganda) described the use of solar fruit dryers in Uganda to convert surplus fruit into a marketable product, lifting families out of poverty.
Each presentation started with a 5-minute documentary film, followed by a ten-minute presentation by the finalist.
How to apply for an Ashden Award
To apply for an Award, visit the relevant page on the Ashden Awards website and follow the instructions there:
Ashden Awards resources
To help achieve its goal of raising awareness of local sustainable energy, the Ashden Awards has developed resources that are freely available from the website:
- Database of case studies and films on past winners.
- Media centre, including films, photos and other materials for media use.
- Schools resource, including lesson plans, films and teacher notes.
- Reports and presentations, such as material from the Imperial College seminar and a research report carried out for DFID.
Note that ashdenawards.org website does not give specify that material on their site can be reused under the CC-BY-SA license. Please limit copying from there to basic facts - or approach them to see if they would be interested in licensing their content under that license.
Ashden Awards Blog
To allow informal reporting of news and discussion between past winners and others, the Ashden Awards also publishes a blog.
List of winners
The Ashden Awards have been presented to a number of organisations, including NGOs, businesses, local governments and schools.