By Julia Hawkins, Ashden PR and Digital Media Manager
Ok I can’t deny it any longer: it’s Autumn. This can surely only mean one thing for all you sustainable energy pioneers out there: it’s time to start thinking about whether you could apply for a 2013 Ashden Award. And just in case you needed any persuading, here are 10 reasons why you should seriously consider it:
1. Prize money
In 2013, Ashden Award winners will receive a cash prize of anything from £5,000 to £40,000. Past winners have put their award money to a whole range of uses. One of this year’s Sustainable Travel Award winners, the City of Ghent, is spending its prize money on new bicycle projects to help it reach its final goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, while our UK Gold Award winner the National Trust is using its money to support its new 'Fit for the future’ network.
2. Profile raising
There’s always a real media frenzy during Awards week, particularly for our international winners, with winners such as Svati Bhogle of TIDE and Harish Hande of Selco and many others going on become leading international proponents of sustainable energy.
3. Support to help you grow further
We give winners tailored support to help them take the next step in scaling up. For example, we helped the not-for-profit Rural Energy Foundation make the transition to becoming a financially sustainable social enterprise. Willem Nolens of Solar Now, as the enterprise is now called, visited our offices recently and said: “The help I received from Ashden was the final push we needed to make this step.”
4. Videos, case studies and other media materials
We make broadcast-quality videos of our International, Sustainable Travel and UK Award winners’ work. Solar Now used their video to persuade the Dutch government to provide more support, demonstrating that their work was relevant and important.
5. Increasing the credibility of your products/programme
Winning an award provides a valuable third-party endorsement for sustainable energy products. As 2007 Award Winner Mohammed Parpia of Zara Solar said recently: “There are so many low-quality solar products on the market in Africa and winning an Ashden Award reinforce the credibility of my business.”
6. Access to finance
A major barrier for sustainable energy entrepreneurs seeking to scale up is access to finance. For example, we helped TIDE in India get the finance necessary to establish itself as a for-profit company. We have also supported past winners such as IDEI in India to access carbon finance.
7. Synergies with other winners
It’s always incredibly inspiring to see new relationships being built among our winners. One of our winners this year is Parity Projects, which teamed up with 2009 winner SuperHomes during September’s Open House Month to offer visitors the opportunity to win one of its Home Energy Masterplan assessments.
8. Participating in our Awards Ceremony and Conference
As well as the excitement and prestige of the Awards Ceremony, our winners have the chance to showcase their work at the Ashden Conference, which takes place in the same week. Again, this is a fantastic opportunity to share learning and insights and network with other sustainable energy practitioners, meet potential funders, investors and partners.
9. Increasing influence with policymakers
The Ashden India Sustainable Energy Collective, comprising all our past Indian winners, is already becoming a force for change in India. In December 2011, The Times of India reported that the Indian government had asked the group to contribute to the country’s policy for a rural electrification programme - particularly the scaling up of solar energy in off-grid rural areas.
Who says eco enthusiasts don't know how to have a good time?! Sustainable energy may be a serious business but we make sure our winners also enjoy themselves when they come to London for Awards week. This year we took winners on the London Eye for a fantastic view of London – and last year we took them on a ‘Duck Tour’ down the River Thames.
So hurry - the application deadlines for all our Awards are fast approaching. Here they are:
School Awards: 23 November.