UK-based nonprofit giant Practical Action was one of this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize winners. I got to interview Chief Executive Paul Smith Lomas and Global Energy Representative Aaron Leopold right after they won the prize. Below is my video interview with the two, as well as some written notes underneath. Enjoy!
In the interview, Chief Executive Paul Smith Lomas quickly brought up Practical Action’s long history. Indeed, the organization has been rolling for more than 50 years! Its focus is much broader than energy, but energy access is a key segment of its work. As that link notes, “over a billion people are still without any form of electricity and 3 billion people still cook over open fires.” Paul highlighted in our interview that 85% of people without electricity today live in rural areas, which makes getting them electricity particularly challenging and hard to scale via a for-profit model — though, companies are now doing it.
Practical Action’s immense network and history of relationships helped it to bring “modern, sustainable energy services” to 1.2 million people last year, which is an awe-inspiring achievement that I think is impossible to praise enough.
After winning the award, and further backing up Paul and Aaron discussed with me, Practical Action noted the following in a press release:
This year, the Zayed Future Energy Prize recognised our work in deploying small scale solar, hydro and wind solutions to off-grid communities in Peru, Bolivia, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Sudan, Senegal, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. As part of the prize, we will get $1.5m and access to high-level influencers for years to come.
Currently we are running more than 100 projects globally. However, the award is acknowledgement of the unique approach to solving the problem of energy poverty, which still affects more than one billion people across the globe today.
Judges said Practical Action not only demonstrates the transformative effects of energy access through our work on the ground, but that we also work on changing the global approach to solving energy poverty.
We do this through thorough research, which has found that only by focusing on small-scale, renewable off grid solutions will we achieve access to energy for all by 2030.
Furthermore, our work goes beyond research and into improving the systems that can make energy access available to even the most remote rural communities happen – by improving access to finance, improving market conditions for energy entrepreneurs and by convincing Governments they should reduce subsidies given to fossil fuels and large grid extensions.
We don’t cover decentralized off-grid nonprofit giants like Practical Action every day, but they are having a tremendously positive impact on the world on a daily basis, so it’s always great to see them recognized more by the Zayed Future Energy Prize and then getting to talk with such leaders about what they’re doing.
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