We met a host of clean energy innovators, in the UK and around the world, as we hunted for this year’s Ashden Award winners. They were determined to bring clean energy to everyone – from the poorest people to those who face barriers because of their gender, disability, social status or other factors.
This was great to see, because an inclusivity is a key judging criteria for this year’s awards. We think it’s vital that as the world embraces renewable energy, no-one is left behind. It can be easier to find solutions that target wealthier customers – or to ignore women, or people in remote areas. But with smart thinking and the right support, innovators can bring clean energy to every person, family and community.
Why is this so important? One reason is that sustainable energy is a powerful tool in the battle to escape poverty. Solar-powered machinery helps adults earn a living, while solar lights help children study into the evening, and solar home systems provide phone charging and enough electricity to power TVs and fridges. When people swap cooking on open fires or polluting stoves for more efficient cooking solutions, they often find themselves with more free time as they don’t have to collect wood to burn – and fewer hospital bills as indoor air pollution is decreased.
Even in richer countries such as the UK, cold and draughty homes can keep people in fuel poverty, or force them to choose between heating and eating. Illness, poor nutrition and debt are poverty traps – but sustainable energy allows people to break the cycle.
But how do you deliver inclusive clean energy? Here are four lessons from our longlist:
Pay-as-you-go helps the poorest get connected
Around the world, people want to use modern, clean, efficient technology as they work and in their homes. This technology often brings long-term savings, among other benefits – but high up-front fees can make it unaffordable for people with little cash and no credit history. Some of our longlisted organisations are tackling this problem with clever pay-as-you-go software.
12 Sep | News
Clean energy powers healthier homes
Agsol uses the technology in its solar-powered farm equipment, sold in countries where people can spend two hours a day milling grain by hand. Farmers aren’t just saving time – they’re taking more control of processing of what they grow, which is one route to a bigger income.
In the home, cleaner cooking solutions save time, lower fuel costs and protect the health of users by limiting air pollution. Envirofit, Inyenyeri and KopaGas are three innovators using pay-as-you-go technology as part of their business.
Clean energy helps women overcome a host of challenges
As women are more likely to cook for a household, especially in developing countries, they are most at risk from the polluting stoves and open cooking fires mentioned above. They are also less likely to have financial freedom and independence, with social pressures often making it harder for them to earn money, or keep control of the money they do earn.
These are just two examples of the many restrictions faced by women around the world, which combine to create deep-rooted gender inequality. Sustainable energy can tackle many of these issues at once, making it a powerful tool that helps societies address this complex problem.
Replacing petrol-powered cars with greener options is a key sustainability challenge – but safety issues can stop women using public and shared transport. Our longlisted organisations are helping women take advantage of sustainable transport – as a way of travelling and a way of earning a living.