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The American company d. light Design, a finalist in the SME category, has sold more than 1.5 million solar lanterns in the developing world. Divyakant Solanki / EPA
The American company d. light Design, a finalist in the SME category, has sold more than 1.5 million solar lanterns in the developing world. Divyakant Solanki / EPA

Renewed efforts to win energy award

Organisers of the fifth Zayed Future Energy Prize received a record number of entries this year.

From a unique system that captures daylight for use in buildings, to schools that aim to live off the electricity grid, the Zayed Future Energy Prize is highlighting a number of solutions towards a low-carbon world.

Launched and managed by Masdar, the Abu Dhabi clean energy company, the award honours the late founding father and President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, who championed environmental stewardship and sustainability as an integral part of the country's history and heritage.

Now in its fifth year, the award has quickly gained recognition as a leading initiative in the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly design.

Organisers received a record number of 579 entries for this year, a 36 per cent increase compared to the last awards. Many of this year's entrants said it was the award's global reputation that prompted them to participate.

"The Zayed Future Energy Prize is internationally recognised and of great importance on the world stage, so it is a prestigious entity to be associated with," said Kay Zwingenberger, the chief executive of Siemens.

"The award is clearly gaining recognition among the cleantech and finance industries as we received information from several directions including members of our board of directors who are top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, as well as clean energy investors from Kleiner Perkins and Google," said Nat Kreamer, the chief executive of Clean Power Finance.

Both companies are among the 24 finalists, chosen after three rounds of evaluation by reputed sustainability experts. The final call was made by a jury chaired by Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the president of Iceland.

The German technology giant is competing with Japan's Sharp and the BYD Company, one of China's fastest growing automotive and renewable energy companies, in the large corporation category, the only one that offers recognition and not a monetary prize. Winners in the four other categories will share nearly US$4 million (Dh14.7m) in prize money.

Clean Power Finance is one of five finalists in the small and medium enterprise category with a prize fund of $1.5 million. It is one of two American companies competing in this category. The second one is d. light Design, a for-profit social enterprise that has sold more than 1.5 million solar lanterns to people in the developing world.

"Creating a business worthy of winning an award such as the Zayed Future Energy Prize has been one of our goals since inception in 2007," said Donn Tice, the chief executive and chairman of d. light Design.

"Winning the Zayed Future Energy Prize will raise the visibility of our focus on bringing universal access to clean, safe, reliable, affordable off-grid light and power. Quite simply, we think being a finalist will help us change more lives."

The company heard about the prize from Dipal Barua, who won the lifetime achievement award in 2009. Mr Barua is the former founding managing director of Grameen Shakti, a Bangladeshi enterprise that offers solar home systems for the country's rural areas.

This year, Grameen Shakti itself is a finalist in the small and medium enterprise category.

The list also includes Mainstream Renewable Power, an Irish company with a development pipeline of 15 gigawatts of solar and wind projects around the world, as well as Belgium's EcoNation, which has developed the world's first motorised and intelligent system to capture and enhance daylight.

The award also looks to recognise individuals and non-governmental organisations. For the first time this year, several schools from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas will be distinguished, with each winner receiving $100,000.

The award is open for schools in Oceania but this year, no school from that region met the eligibility criteria, the organisers said.

The Global High School Prize falls under the UAE's commitment to the UN secretary general's "sustainable energy for all" initiative.

Among the nine schools is a local one, the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School in Abu Dhabi, which has already introduced a variety of energy-saving measures and plans to install a solar photovoltaic system on its rooftop if it wins.

It is competing with the Fujimigaoka Educational Institution in Tokyo, Japan and the Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya school in Karnataka, India.

The school has already installed solar lighting and some photovoltaic panels on its campus and is hoping to expand its programme if it wins.

"We have identified that the Zayed Future Energy Prize will be able to assist us in embracing more comprehensive renewable energy solutions," said Barbara Schmid, the social welfare manager at the school.

"If we win the prize, we will be able to implement alternative energy solutions that will directly benefit the school administration, by helping us cut costs as well as improve the general living condition and the students' education."

The winners will be named at a ceremony on Tuesday at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

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