The 2015 Ashden Awards Ceremony

Key promises at the 21st UN Climate Conference of Parties (COP21) included $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020. This month, politicians meet in the Polish city of Katowice for another climate summit – COP24.

The Paris agreement was praised by politicians, who said it cleared a path for huge progress. But what have the three years since the deal been like for pioneers and innovators driving real, frontline advances in the world of sustainable energy? See what’s changed for a handful of Ashden Award winners.

Smart software firm wants more government action

In 2015 we gave Demand Logic an Ashden Award for their work tackling ‘energy insanities’ in commercial properties. These operational issues leave commercial buildings costing more to run and causing comfort problems, including heating and cooling the same space at the same time.

Since winning their award the company’s turnover has risen sharply. They are helping to deliver thousands more tonnes of carbon savings every year, equivalent to the emissions from about 5,000 homes. They have picked up nine awards in the last 12 months alone, including the prestigious Sir Peter Parker Award. “It’s been a great year!” says Chairman, Sonny Masero.

But did a breakthrough in Paris help Demand Logic? Sonny says: “I’m not optimistic about where we’ve got to between COP21 and COP24.” The UK government signed the COP21 deal, but Sonny argues they should be doing more in the commercial property and business sectors. “The focus on commercial property is very weak – there’s a policy shortage.” He says the government should commit to practical steps such as the introduction of operational ratings for buildings and better enforcement of building regulations.

He says the wider business environment does mean investors are more likely to put property companies under pressure on their sustainability performance. He adds investors now expect greater transparency on climate-related financial risk – “they are looking at climate change seriously”.

Winning the award brought a host of benefits for Demand Logic. Sonny says: “Having worked in this field for many years, I know software solutions have been undervalued. Ashden helped validate what we were doing to save energy and reduce carbon emissions.” Financial advice and marketing resources from Ashden have also helped the organisation grow.

Three life-changing years

Many other 2015 award winners have gone from strength to strength, including the London borough of Islington’s Seasonal Health Intervention Network (SHINE). Shine was awarded for tackling fuel poverty, by linking local organisations with a joined-up approach that improved the lives of the borough’s most vulnerable residents. One year after their win, Shine expanded and is now helping people right across London – supporting 22,500 households so far.

SRSP notes that communities often ‘gel’ through working together on a hydro scheme. 

Another winner was Pakistan’s Sarhad Rural Support Programme, which had installed 189 small hydro power schemes in an area that formerly had little access to electricity. The project employed 570 people, and electricity it produced helped many more earn a living through baking, fruit-drying, craft work and other activities. Women in some parts of the region were earning an income for the first time. Just two years later, the number of schemes had almost doubled to more than 330 – reaching 900,000 people.

Our 2015 winners also included Kenyan cookstove company Burn Manufacturing, whose products reduce dangerous indoor air pollution. This year Burn announced a plan to join other organisations in a project developing a more clean burning, affordable and fuel-efficient biomass cookstove.

Burn Chief Executive Officer Peter Scott said: “We would like to see every household in sub-Saharan Africa switch to renewable and zero-residue fuels. While natural gas and ethanol hold great promise, the reality is that, by 2050, 1.6 billion people will still rely on solid biomass for cooking on the continent. To mitigate this looming social, economic and ecological catastrophe, we must make wood-burning biomass stoves cleaner and more efficient.”

Regardless of what COP24 brings, we expects this year’s crop of Ashden Award winners to enjoy even more success in the years ahead.