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Observer Ethical awards Winners 2011

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Sustainable energy solutions recognised by Ashden Awards

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 June 2009 at 2:42 pm

Inspirational people combined with sustainable energy technologies makes me feel hopeful for the future, and at the Ashden Awards ceremony last night both abounded.

The winners spoke humbly about their achievements, yet many of them are significantly transforming people's lives. For example the outstanding achievement award was won by International Development Enterprises India, which invented the Farmers' Friend, a simple treadle mechanism for small farmers to pump water onto their land. They have lifted more than 750,000 farmers out of poverty.

A partnership that invented and mass produces an environmentally-friendly stove for cooking won the Global Energy Champions. Dean Still from USA-based Aprovecho Research Centre told us of his meetings with Mr Shen Hiuyang of Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer in China, where the only language they had in common was mathematics.

However, they also share a desire to create a better stove for millions of people around the world who cook with biomass or coal on open fires or traditional stoves and that transcended language barriers. Their stove reduces firewood use by 50 per cent, and carbon monoxide and particulate emissions by 70 per cent. It means better health for cooks and their families, and less deforestation and erosion.

Bringing electricity to rural areas of Ethiopia won the Solar Energy Foundation its award. It has installed over 2,000 small solar systems in two small villages that are off the electricity grid. Women no longer have to walk two hours to get water, as there is a solar powered pump in the village and people don’t suffer the eye and respiratory problems associated with kerosene smoke.

Here in the UK, Kirklees Council has invested £9m in a programme to install cavity wall and loft insulation free of charge for every home in the borough. Seventy percent of households have taken it up, saving them about £200 per year in fuel bills every year. I hope this award will act as an incentive for other councils to follow their lead and invest for the long term.

The Sustainable Energy Academy is raising the profile of the huge carbon savings that can be made in existing buildings by creating a network of superhomes. Owners of superhomes have installed measures to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 70 per cent. They open their homes to the public to demonstrate how it’s done and inspire others to follow.

These are just some of my favourites. The whole list of winners is available on the Ashden Awards website, and I will write more in depth case studies of selected winners here in the blog over the next few weeks.

To sum up, I quote from Prince Charles, who presented the awards: ‘Since 2001, the Ashden Awards have not only highlighted the huge potential for more sustainable energy technologies, but have also demonstrated the determination and creativity of the people behind them. … while these awards show what it is possible to do now in saving resources and cutting emissions, they also remind us all how, as individuals, we can make such a huge difference to the world we live in. put simply, acting locally is, in fact, acting globally.’

Well put, let's get going!

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