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Image by Ken Walton

World-leading energy innovators bring solutions to the climate emergency  

The winners of the coveted Ashden Awards are revealed today, ten boundary-pushing initiatives that showcase the power of sustainable energy to cut carbon emissions and transform lives. Their success – announced in the run up to London Climate Action Week (1-5 July) – proves that bold new business models, policies and technologies can deliver dramatic progress in the face of the growing climate emergency. 

This year’s 10 Ashden Award winners are creating greener homes, cities and transport networks, as well as improving health, reducing poverty and inequality and transforming energy infrastructure. Chosen after rigorous judging by energy experts, they will be honoured at the 2019 Ashden Awards ceremony in London on 3 July, a flagship event of the inaugural London Climate Action Week.   

In 2019 Ashden is honouring three UK-based initiatives and seven from Africa, India, China, and Central America. They join a network of over 215 past Ashden Award winners improving lives and saving millions of tonnes of CO2 every year.  

Each winner will receive tailored business support to help scale up their work and a prize of up to £20,000. 

Ashden Award for Sustainable Mobility, supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch 

Rickshaw drivers in India work long hours with low pay and job security, in cities where air pollution is many times above World Health Organisation guidelines. In 2017, 1.2 million people in India were killed by the effects of air pollution. SMV Green creates fair working conditions, with electric rickshaws and reliable contracts – empowering drivers to buy their vehicles and earn more money and taking steps towards healthier cities. The organisation’s radical Vahini programme is training some of India’s first women rickshaw drivers, creating secure incomes for them and offering safety and peace of mind for their female passengers. 

International Ashden Award for Sustainable Cities and Buildings, supported by Grosvenor 

EQuota Energy has saved customers more than $6.8 million in energy bills, and prevented more than 150,000 tons of CO2 emissions. The Chinese software company gives building owners and landlords world-leading smart energy management solutions. By monitoring energy use and drawing on artificial intelligence and ‘big data’ technology, EQuota helps buildings become more energy efficient. The result? Lower energy costs and reduced urban pollution – all without any intrusive equipment or installation work.  

Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy and Healthcare 

Reliable energy transforms healthcare, creating better services that reach more people. India’s Karuna Trust delivers effective healthcare using solar power and energy-efficient buildings and equipment, in areas that suffer up to eight hours of power cuts every day. The trust’s unique approach integrates energy and health, empowering clinical staff and local communities. The most marginalised patients who benefit most – no longer having to travel long distances for specialist care, or risk power cuts mid-treatment. 

Ashden Award for Clean Cooking, supported by Waterloo Foundation 

Small farmers grow up to 70% of the world’s food, and agricultural systems have a huge impact on climate change. Sistema.bio, based in Mexico, has created an innovative, affordable biogas system that turns animal waste into the cleanest of cooking fuels and produces a planet-friendly super fertiliser – boosting productivity while lowering carbon emissions. The product’s simple, modular design makes it easy to add more capacity if needed, and the option to pay in instalments makes it available to more farmers. Buyers in Latin America, Africa and Asia no longer have to cook using expensive and polluting wood fuel or fossil fuels. They save money and our forests and climate are protected. 

Ashden Award for Innovative Finance, supported by Citi 

The innovative Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia, created by the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEP), has brought clean energy to 116,000 people who would otherwise struggle to afford it. It has done this by making it less risky for businesses to enter the country’s off-grid energy market. Many households in one of the world’s poorest countries can now buy lights and mobile phones for the very first time – including in isolated rural areas. The fund builds the market by offering financial incentives to renewable energy companies – their performance is closely watched and payments are linked to the financial requirements of the project. Crucially, the scheme ensures that only high quality products are sold. 

Ashden Award for Powering Business, supported by UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 

In India wild silk has long been prized as a premium product, with skilled women reeling silk from cocoons to be woven into beautiful fabrics. But thigh-reeling, the traditional process of producing thread, is a physically demanding and undignified process. Women must work long hours to make a living, with few chances to grow their income. Resham Sutra has developed a range of affordable electric reeling machines – many powered by solar energy – that vastly improve working conditions and create a predictable, at least doubling income for over 9,000 silk workers. 

International Ashden Award for Cooling by Nature, supported by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme with Sustainable Energy for All 

After years of high crime and violence, the Colombian city of Medellín faces a new threat – rising urban temperatures, driven by climate change. The response of the city authorities (Alcaldía de Medellín) to this global problem brings people together, planting vegetation to create a better environment for everyone. The Green Corridors project shades cyclists and pedestrians, cools built up areas and cleans the air along busy roads. The city’s botanical gardens train people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become city gardeners and planting technicians. Temperatures have fallen by two or three degrees Celsius in places, with bigger reductions expected in the future. 

Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb said: “The outstanding organisations that make up our roster of 2019 winners are truly inspirational, bringing much-needed solutions to the table. Their practical but clever and economically feasible innovations are just what we need to address the climate emergency. People are feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the emergency; but these organisations have all shown the face of the possible; now we need to get behind them, scale up the solutions and make them the new norm.” 

Impax Ashden Award for Energy Innovation 

UK-based Highview Power’s ground-breaking CRYOBatteries enable large-scale energy storage to be built more cheaply and with less environmental damage than lithium batteries, which are linked to destructive mineral mining. The technology helps keep the grid stable as the share of renewable energy – poised to overtake fossil fuels as the UK’s largest electricity source increases. CRYOBatteries can also store excess solar and wind energy for later use. They store energy using liquid air and are made more efficient by clever use of the waste cold and heat created during the process. CRYOBatteries are relatively cheap, long-lasting and easy to make and install. 

Ashden Award for Clean Air in Towns and Cities, supported by HSBC 

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has weathered protests and public anger over its bold scheme to clean up the borough’s air and boost walking and cycling. The multi-million pound ‘Enjoy Waltham Forest’ project features road redesigns, bike training, extra cycle storage and school cycling workshops – all of which improve people’s health and create happier communities. Calmer streets have also encouraged shoppers to use local businesses. By seeking out and acting on resident feedback, the ambitious project overcame a rocky start and now attracts interest from around the world. 

UK Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings, supported by Garfield Weston Foundation 

The UK must retrofit 26 million homes by 2050 in order to radically cut carbon emissions. Energiesprong – ‘energy leap’ in Dutch – is an innovative solution that could play a big role in hitting this target. With backing from the National Energy Foundation (NEF)Energiesprong UK helps social housing providers create warmer, greener homes. Walls and other large components are made off-site, which allows whole-house retrofits to be done quickly and with minimum disruption to tenants. Energiesprong’s work comes with a 30 year energy performance guarantee. 

Ashden Award for Sustainable Mobility, supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch 

Rickshaw drivers in India work long hours with low pay and job security, in cities where air pollution is many times above World Health Organisation guidelines. In 2017, 1.2 million people in India were killed by the effects of air pollution. SMV Green creates fair working conditions, with electric rickshaws and reliable contracts – empowering drivers to buy their vehicles and earn more money and taking steps towards healthier cities. The organisation’s radical Vahini programme is training some of India’s first women rickshaw drivers, creating secure incomes for them and offering safety and peace of mind for their female passengers. 

International Ashden Award for Sustainable Cities and Buildings, supported by Grosvenor 

EQuota Energy has saved customers more than $6.8 million in energy bills, and prevented more than 150,000 tons of CO2 emissions. The Chinese software company gives building owners and landlords world-leading smart energy management solutions. By monitoring energy use and drawing on artificial intelligence and ‘big data’ technology, EQuota helps buildings become more energy efficient. The result? Lower energy costs and reduced urban pollution – all without any intrusive equipment or installation work.

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