Low carbon innovations and green energy proved a powerful theme at this year’s Ashden Awards, with winners from the UK and Africa earning global recognition for their decarbonisation projects.
Many of the winners in the climate solutions charity, Ashden’s celebration of collaboration and innovation operate outside the built environment, of course, but there was plenty to fit Build in Digital‘s remit.
The UK’s Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (HACT) won the Ashden Award for Energy Innovation with its Retrofit Credits scheme.
The initiative, created in collaboration with PNZ Carbon, sets out to tackle the financing challenge of energy efficiency in UK social housing. It offers a route for businesses and other organisations that want to meet their own climate commitments to buy credits equivalent to their emissions, and those credits fund energy efficiency upgrades to social housing.
According to HACT, this means people can benefit from extra insulation, replacements for draughty doors and windows, and modern heating technology.
Antoine Pellet, the organisation’s head of Retrofit Credits, said: “For us, retrofit credit is about impact, it is about how we accelerate the retrofitting of social homes, so people on low incomes who are experiencing the worst cost of living crisis in living memory, can afford to heat their homes. And whilst we do that, there will be huge reductions in carbon.”
Internationally, clean energy schemes also proved a winner, and Africa proved a major contender. Among them, Husk Power Systems received the Outstanding Achievement Award for its work rapidly expanding community solar mini-grids in Sub-Saharan Africa, where communities aren’t likely to see main grid connection for many years, if ever.
The Sunshot Initiative aims to benefit 7.7 million people across the continent within five years. Husk’s clean energy mini-grids support businesses, schools and hospitals, replacing polluting diesel generators.
Another example was Power for All, which won the Ashden Award for Integrated Energy Africa for its Utilities 2.0 Twaake project in Uganda.
Kristina Skierka, chief executive of Power for All, said: “Utilities 2.0 has shown that by working together humans can significantly change the rate of access to energy. Together we found that by combining centralized and decentralised energy, that businesses like mini-grids and rooftop solar can work together with traditional electrical systems to accelerate connections, drive demand and improve an energy system’s performance.”
Ashden’s chief executive, Dr Ashok Sinha said: “Our winners prove people are passionate about creating practical solutions to the climate emergency – whether giving their time to restore rivers in the UK, or using clean energy to power up a thriving business in Uganda. And just look what happens as a result: Higher incomes, better health, stronger communities and the creation of new jobs.
“But these brilliant solutions need serious backing from policymakers and investors. For example, this year’s winners include innovations, such as those from HACT, that could unlock millions of pounds to create warm, energy efficient homes across the UK – surely that’s a scheme worth supporting?”
The full list of international winners, operating across all sectors, can be found on Ashden’s website.
Main image: Solar electricity supply from Husk Power has allowed John Dauda Buhari in Igbabo Community to run his phone charging business 24 hours a day. Credit: Maryam Turaki /Ashden
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