2021 Ashden Awards promotes innovation in the energy sector

Entries for the 2021 Ashden Awards have opened with international categories promoting innovation in energy access, natural climate solutions and sustainable cooling for low-income neighbourhoods.

The prestigious annual awards highlight outstanding climate innovations, boosting bright ideas that can be scaled up or replicated around the world. 

Award categories relevant to African applicants include the Ashden award for Energy Access Innovation, the Ashden Award for Humanitarian Energy, and the Ashden Award for Cooling in Informal Settlements and the Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions which will highlight reforestation projects in the Congo basin specifically.

CEO Harriet Lamb said: “This year we are awarding solutions taking on the biggest international climate challenges – from defending our rain forests to helping people survive deadly heatwaves. This includes the ongoing battle to connect everyone with clean and affordable energy, including the world’s 80 million refugees and displaced people.

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Last year Ashden Award 2020 winners in Africa included the Togolese Electrification and Renewable Energy Agency, AT2ER (a government body with the task of ensuring that all of Togo has access to electricity), and runners up included Econsult architects in Egypt, New Energy Nexus Uganda whose ‘last mile distributers’ ensure clean energy products reach rural areas in Uganda, and CAMGEW -a women-led bee farming and reforestation project in Cameroon. 

This year, Ashden hope to receive a similarly impressive set of applications from innovators in Africa working with communities to reduce climate impacts.

Lamb continues: “Our awards will focus on innovation supporting those marginalised or at risk of being left behind – from indigenous peoples to families living without electricity.”

“Coronavirus has put the progress of many climate pioneers in danger – but they have responded by digging deep to help their communities at this difficult time. Now more than ever, we must celebrate these innovators and back their work building a cleaner, fairer future for all.” 

Award nominations are open now, and close on 3 March 2021. Winners will be announced in the autumn. As well as a cash grant of up to £20,000, winning organisations receive development support, networking opportunities, and PR support (including a broadcast-quality film about their work). 

The 2021 international Ashden Awards:

  • Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions 

Forest ecosystems are a vital defence against climate catastrophe. But the communities that call them home are under threat – often lacking rights and economic power, and now vulnerable to coronavirus. When the careful stewardship of forests by indigenous people and their neighbours is threatened, we are all at risk. 

The Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions will highlight initiatives in the Congo Basin (plus the Amazon and South East Asian rainforest) making forest communities more resilient, through improved livelihoods, inclusive business models or improved governance and land rights. It will also spotlight innovation in grassroots resistance, cultural preservation and support for young leaders. 

  • Ashden award for Energy Access Innovation 

Global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 – universal energy access by 2030 – hang in the balance. 770 million people still go without access to electricity, and in sub-Saharan Africa the number of people with access to electricity is set to fall in 2020. 

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the vital community role that locally led energy access enterprises play, but also the enormous structural challenges they face in accessing finance and support. This award seeks innovation at all levels of the energy access ecosystem that is helping innovators survive, thrive and build resilience in local communities.

Innovation could be in the realm of inclusive finance, delivery models, community development and partnerships or broader systemic change. It could be led by enterprises, community organisations, national or regional governments or NGOs.  

  • Ashden Award for Humanitarian Energy, supported by Linbury Trust, the Alan and Babette Sainsbury Charitable Fund, and the Ashden Humanitarian Energy Appeal.  

Refugees and displaced people face a desperate battle to access clean energy, and the safety and dignity it brings. About 80% of people living in refugee camps are thought to have minimal access to energy for cooking and heating, and about 90% have no access to electricity. Even limited access to energy comes at an enormous cost – in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, households spend an estimated 24% of their income on energy – compared to a UK household spend of just 4%.

This award will uncover innovation bringing clean, affordable energy to refugees and displaced people around the world. In particular, it will focus on innovative finance and delivery models for bringing clean energy to humanitarian settings. Initiatives should also give displaced people – and host communities – the chance to plan and run clean energy programmes. 

  • Ashden Award for Cooling in Informal Settlements, supported by K-CEP/ClimateWorks Foundation 

Millions of people in low-income neighbourhoods face dangerous heat inside and outside their homes. This brings the risk of mental and physical health problems – and makes it hard or impossible to study, earn a living or even sleep well. In the most extreme cases, night-time temperatures can be up to 8 degrees celsius higher indoors than out. Solutions can be hard to implement – these homes are rarely subject to planning regulations, while conventional air conditioning is too expensive for residents (and further drives the climate crisis).  

But affordable non-mechanised cooling solutions exist, such as temperature-lowering roof and wall adaptations, natural ventilation systems, evaporative cooling and the use of plants, trees and structures to provide cooling shade. This award will spotlight the best initiatives alleviating heat stress, and help make solutions accessible and affordable to those in greatest need.