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2013 International Ashden Award winners

Headteacher Beatrice with SolarAid lamps


International Gold Award

Creative distribution brings solar power to East Africa’s rural poor

With the audacious goal of eliminating the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020, Solar Aid’s sales teams work with schools in rural areas to promote good quality, affordable lights to families. With over 400,000 lamps sold since 2010, the organisation is now the largest distributer of solar lights in Africa.

The immediate benefits are immeasurable: children are able to study in the evening, polluting and dangerous kerosene is avoided, and families save money. And by using competitive procurement, SolarAid is helping raise standards across the industry.

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An IndiGo scratchcard

Azuri Technologies

Zennstrom Philanthropies Ashden Award for Innovation

Pay-as-you-go solar for Kenyan homes

Small solar home systems bring good quality light and phone-charging to off-grid households and save them money. Yet their upfront costs render them out of reach for the people who would benefit most. UK-based startup Azuri has developed a pay-as-you-go interface which allows households to pay for solar as they use it with scratchcards, avoiding the need for microfinance.

Increasing numbers of homes in Kenya and elsewhere are now using Azuri’s ‘Indigo Duo’ starter solar-home-systems which provide two lights and phone charging. Once they have paid for their starter system, Azuri’s customers then have the opportunity to upgrade to larger systems, allowing them to progressively climb their way out of poverty.

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Efficient cookstoves produce very little smoke

Impact Carbon

Citi Ashden Award for Financial Innovation

Catalysing the growth of the East African stove market

Across the developing world, small businesses are selling life-saving technologies like cleaner cookstoves that reduce indoor air pollution. Many of them need help to achieve their potential. Impact Carbon works with stove and water filter enterprises across East Africa, China and elsewhere to access carbon finance, then uses the money to work intensely with them to help them build their businesses and help make the stoves more affordable for the people who want to buy them.

Uganda is Impact Carbon’s biggest market, where the five stove businesses it works with have dramatically increased sales and capacity: for example, the country’s biggest stove manufacturer has increased sales from 200 a month in 2007 to more than 10,000 a month in 2013.

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A shop in Goma selling fuel-efficient stoves


Waterloo Foundation Ashden Award for Avoided Deforestation

Grass-roots cookstoves project protects forests and helps families

Rapid deforestation in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is threatening its fragile ecosystem and over half the world’s population of highly endangered mountain gorillas. Meanwhile, for Goma’s burgeoning population, spending a high proportion of their income on illegally plundered charcoal makes climbing out of poverty an impossible dream.

WWF is training local businesses to build and sell cheap, culturally appropriate stoves that halve the amount of charcoal needed, so helping protect the sensitive forest environment. It’s also helping landowners start sustainable tree plantations for charcoal, to help meet Goma’s needs. So far 45,000 stoves have been sold.

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Making a fuel-efficient Cookswell oven

Cookswell Jikos

A ‘seed to ash’ approach to cleaner cookstoves

The late Dr Maxwell Kinyanjui was a pioneer in improving the sustainability of charcoal in Kenya, developing the charcoal-saving Kenya Ceramic Jiko and other technologies, and promoting commercial reforestation and efficient charcoal production. As such, the Kenyan business is unique in its ‘seed to ash’ approach to cookstoves which takes into account the entire lifecycle of wood.

Dr Kinyanjui’s family continue to take his ideas forward. While startup business Cookswell Jikos sells jikos, charcoal ovens, and small charcoal kilns,its partner the Woodlands Trust is responsible for developing new plantations.

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Khishigdulam's gur has a silver stove purchased with microfinance

MicroEnergy Credits

Helping microfinance providers finance clean energy products

Lack of finance can be a major stumbling block for people in developing countries who want to buy renewable energy products, with even the cheapest solar lanterns out of reach for many. The US business MicroEnergy Credits (MEC) is a business that helps microfinance institutions promote and provide loans for these products. As well as supporting microfinance lenders to put their programmes in place it helps them access carbon finance.

So far MEC has supported microfinance providers to sell more than 180,000 renewable energy products, including stoves and solar homes systems. Its largest programme is with XacBank in Mongolia.

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A boy on a bicycle outside the OMC micropower plant near Jangaon village

OMC Power

Sustainable power for the telecoms industry and surrounding villages

In rural India, only half the population has access to grid power. But running a mobile network is often costly and polluting. OMC has pioneered the use of solar-diesel hybrid plants to power telecom towers, and also rents electricity services to communities in surrounding villages.

Telecom companies welcome the chance to use reliable power from more renewable sources, while villagers enjoy using clean, bright lanterns with mobile chargers and portable ‘powerboxes’ that are brought daily to their doors. With large areas of rural India likely to remain off-grid and hungry for mobile telecoms there are huge prospects for expansion.

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The 2013 Ashden International Awards are supported by: