I hope those of you who haven’t already watched the Zayed Future Energy Prize Awards Ceremony videos will go ahead and do so, as they are really inspiring and interesting to watch.
Once you’ve done that, you can learn a bit more about the winners via the following videos, which I filmed at the Zayed Future Energy Prize press conference:
Some interesting quotes and facts from the press conference are also included below:
Panasonic Executive Vice President Yoshihiko Yamada
“We have been working towards a sustainable society since [the] foundation of the Panasonic Corporation, back to 1918.”
A 19-hectare, 1000-house “sustainable smart town” that Panasonic has opened 50 kilometers southwest of Tokyo aims to see a 70% CO2 emissions reduction compared to a comparably sized conventional town, as well as a 30% reduction of water usage. The smart town will also get a minimum of 30% of its energy from renewable resources, according to Mr Yamada. I assume that actually means 30% of electricity, but the website for the smart town also says “energy.”
Lastly, Panasonic aims to accelerate such developments in more places, including the United States.
M-KOPA Managing Director & Co-Founder Jesse Moore
“We have only been selling for a little over 2 years and yet we’ve connected now 150,000 homes in East Africa to affordable solar power, which is cheaper than what they were spending before on kerosene, so it’s an environmental win, it’s a win for those customers, and it’s a great investment for our shareholders. We now sell over 500 a day, and the momentum that we will get from winning this prize carries us well beyond 1000, 2000, 3000 sales a day, because there are millions of homes just waiting for affordable, renewable energy in East Africa and the wider continent. With the prize money we’re so grateful for, we will be investing in a new initiative called M-KOPA University, and the university will train not only our staff — we have 500 full-time staff today; we’ll be 1500 full-time staff in the next two years — as well as our sales agents — those are independent salespeople who make a living selling solar door to door in rural Kenya — that will triple from 1000 to 3000 sales agents.”
Liter of Light Executive Director & Founder Illac Diaz
“Sometimes you forget how simple is sometimes beautiful…. We were thinking of, how can a grassroots, local skills–based technology using local parts compete against some of the biggest government-grant-funded agencies and donations, and we really said, maybe it’s just a matter of courage and believing that bottom-up approaches are as valid as top-down approaches. One thing about the nonprofit category is really just the courage to believe that your idea is as valuable as others, and to apply. If I was not given the courage to apply, and just being strong about the idea that maybe open source is as valuable as a centralized agency.
“We come from a humanitarian perspective. In the humanitarian sphere, we had to shift from logistics taking 60–80% of the budget to get these kinds of lights over, to producing it locally with women being able to assemble the solar lights and to being able to get thousands of people to be able to know that, so during disasters we call on them, we have this massive database, and they can assemble it within 72 hours. This was never talked about in this kind of emergency situation. So, brought about by need, we were able to teach people t0 build immediately, but also they can all make a livelihood. This idea’s gotten from just one beneficiary, one carpenter, to now 450,000 households within 2 years around the world in 15 countries.
“With our grant, we hope to put more R&D in community-based technologies — in making people aware about what is called ‘the genius of the poor’ — local suppliers for solar, and local capacity to build, and local innovation is never talked about in product. Everybody wants to sell you something on commission. We believe that we cannot keep on buying these kind of products every 2 years when it breaks down — it’s a total dependency. So, what we’re saying is, ‘what if you teach the very people themselves to demystify solar and to build it themselves?’ So, now we build our own solar panels in our backyard; we put up streetlights that light up communities, especially during disaster, so within 72 hours we can light up whole streets where emergency aid can be organized. And this has been the revolution — the bottom-up approach is one of the most powerful solutions. By putting it in human hands, by including the poor in energy, we believe that not only 1% can be given light, but this will be the greatest solar revolution of all.”
*Full Disclosure: My trip to and accommodation in Abu Dhabi for the Zayed Future Energy Prize, World Future Energy Summit, and other Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week events was covered by Masdar. However, I have full editorial control over my articles and videos, and I am publishing them without feedback.