The energy Oscars: Zayed Future Energy Prize winners announced
ABU DHABI // The winners of the Zayed Future Energy Prize this year will share US$4 million (Dh14m) in funding for renewable energy projects.
Monday’s prize-giving ceremony, held during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, rewarded individuals, companies and schools that have helped to promote the importance of renewable energy.
“Sustainable development can’t be achieved without sustainable energy,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who attended the awards ceremony.
“The nation’s capital is witnessing international momentum to bring together decision-makers, international organisations and the private sector to find solutions for future global energy challenges.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, also attended. He said that the UAE would continue to be a leader in driving sustainable innovations across the globe.
“At this critical time in the global dialogue around sustainability and clean energy, the UAE has shown farsighted leadership in ensuring innovation plays a central role in addressing the world’s common concerns,” he said.
“Because of this, Abu Dhabi is a focal point for action that carries us along the path of sustainable development. This is a journey that we began under the farsighted vision of our Founding Father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, whose legacy defines the UAE’s past and will continue to define its future.”
The prize recognises the “pioneers that dare to push the boundaries of what is achievable through clean energy innovation,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
“These pioneers are the individuals and organisations at the forefront of the transition to a more secure and sustainable world.”
More than 202 million people have benefited from the achievements of prize winners, said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State and director general of the prize. Projects that have been honoured have provided water security in countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines and offset the costs of global deforestation by avoiding carbon emissions.
In the Global High Schools category, five institutions each received $100,000 to further their efforts in promoting and teaching students about the importance of sustainability.
The high schools are: SOS HG Sheikh Secondary School in Somalia; Educativa Gabriel Plazas in Colombia; Korea Science Academy of Kaist, South Korea; Student Research Centre in Germany and Cashmere High School in New Zealand.
China’s BYD, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electric cars, won for Large Corporation. The category offers no monetary reward, but instead recognises contributions to clean energy.
The company is in talks with the UAE to deploy electric buses as part of the country’s public transport revamp.
“We have already had meetings in the UAE with RTA and others to have electric buses and cars in the market,” said Wang Chuan-fu, the company’s chairman and president.
“We have found the UAE to be very open-minded and progressive when it comes to adopting new technologies and we look to progress our work here.”
Mr Wang said in having been awarded with the prize twice this was a sign that the UAE is astute in recognising the potential for the electric car market and in particular, the potential for its use in public transport.
“Last year for the personal achievement and this year [for]this, it is such a pleasure to receive the award. The electric-car market is growing really fast, it has tripled in 2015. Working in 160 cities we are looking to expand beyond that,” he said.
In the Small-and-Medium Enterprise award category, Offgrid Electric received $1.5 million.
Graham Smith, president of the Tanzanian company, said it had been working to bring solar energy to communities both at home and in Rwanda to increase access to clean energy.
“We saw four big barriers that prevented people having access to energy. We try to help them in the process and make them understand that we’re providing them a service, a renewable one,” he said.
He said Offgrid Electric made it easier for members of the public to make use of solar energy, and provided support and information when needed.
This year’s Non-Profit Organisation $1.5m prize went to Kopernik, an Indonesian initiative that is trying to provide clean energy to 1 million people.
“Typically we focus on households, but we also do work with clinics and hospitals and schools to some extent, and with this prize, we’ll be able to get even more,” said the organisation’s co-founder, Ewa Wojkowska.
Kopernik works to provide access to clean power to Indonesia’s isolated communities and homes.
It is also a company focused on the empowerment of women, through training and employment, Ms Wojkowska said.
She hoped to work closely with the UAE to further that cause.
“Abu Dhabi is really inspirational, not only domestically, but what it is doing worldwide.We’re really happy that this attitude has been taken,” she said.