iDE UK at the Ashden Awards

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The iDE UK team attended the Ashden Awards last week. Here are some of the thoughts of one of our volunteers, Sheri Haward:

“I was pleased to attend the Ashden awards last week. There are some highlights  to interning at iDE, not least to be able to participate in a conference that promotes what is happening at the cutting edge of sustainable energy in the UK and abroad.

Yet sustainability is a bit of a buzz word nowadays, isn’t it? Is it really making a difference to people’s lives or effecting changes around the world or even in the United Kingdom? When you look at the news, it doesn’t seem so, there is just the perpetual doom and gloom about extreme weather events or new weather records or failed or failing political summits. Adding to this is the realisation that resources are being used up at an alarming rate and the alternatives are confusing or seem unpopular.

Thankfully, the Ashden awards  provide the  perfect antidote, showing us how the answers are not just with the big shot politicians or EU, UN or G8 agendas, but with ordinary people like you and me. It’s people like us who have come up with a  variety of inspirational,  innovative approaches and technologies, which are the key to getting sustainable energy solutions to reach scale, not just in the developing world, but in the UK too. As the Director of the Wadebridge Renewal Energy Network, a UK finalist, said, “People with no resources & no influence CAN do something about the energy crisis.”

iDE is a keen supporter of Ashden and won the award for ‘Avoided deforestation’ last year for ‘Hydrologic’, an enterprise manufacturing low-cost ceramic water filters, which it developed in Cambodia. Two thirds of the population of Cambodia didn’t have access to safe water when iDE started with Hydrologic. Most had to resort to boiling it, a process which involved chopping down Cambodia’s precious rainforest.

Mrs. Chey and her Hydrologic

A Cambodian home with the Hydrologic water filter in pride of place next to the TV. Photo: iDE UK- David Graham

Following last year’s award, Hydrologic has attracted investment from a number of new partners and Hydrologic carbon credits have been sold for the first time on the voluntary market. It has flourished over this year, sales have increased significantly –  with over 250,000 sold in the last ten years. These water filters are becoming a fixture in many Cambodian homes (see photo above). You can learn more from the video about Hydrologic in Cambodia from last year’s Ashden Award here.

The 2013 finalists had all come up with energy solutions, which are being adopted by communities and some which were being pioneered by whole communities too, like in Wadebridge in Cornwall, a town that has collectively decided to generate 100% of its electricity by 2020. This year’s International awards featured organisations that are investing in both energy efficiency and renewable energy to boost economic growth by creating new livelihoods, jobs and skills.

iDE as a whole (not just me) congratulates the International Gold winners, Solar Aid, a charity that pioneers solar powered lamps, as the alternative to smoky kerosene lamps. Most families want a lamp, not just to improve the quality of life in their homes, but so children can study and get ahead. This creates an enormous market for solar-powered lamps, in the last 8 weeks alone, Steve Andrews, the Solar Aid CEO commented that a 100,000 lamps were sold.  By switching to solar powered lamps, families in Africa save around £77 per year, which is a substantial amount for poor families.

I also liked another finalist, Azuri.  Azuri offers pay-as-you-go scratch cards for a domestic, small solar energy scheme, so they don’t have to take loans or microfinance for sustainable electrification of their homes. As Simon Bransfield-Garth of Azuri stated: “Stop viewing rural Africa as victims, but as customers.”

iDE has always had the same approach to its small-holder, farming clients. They are not beneficiaries of charity, but pro-active, entrepreneurial men and women who are looking for long-term sustainable ways to get out of poverty. iDE facilitates these solutions, with the aim  that they can be set up and remain in place because they are commercially viable.

Attending the Ashden conference was an inspiring event that actually filled me with hope. Hope for the future of this planet, this country and people in general. The participants were all passionate in their commitment to sustainability and the many different energy solutions offered not only made sense from a climate change perspective, but were significantly more economical in the long run. You can read more about The Ashden awards  here. 

(hawardsheri@gmail.com)

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