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Global Winners Honoured for Sustainable Energy Innovation



The Ashden Awards, a celebration of international innovation and creativity in the sustainable energy industry. At this year’s Ashden Awards twelve organisations from across the globe have been announced as winners. Winners were presented with their Award at a ceremony hosted by BBC journalist Mishal Husain at the Royal Geographical Society in London last week.

This year’s winners are all at the forefront of innovation when it comes to excellence in sustainable energy.  Included are forward thinking businesses using smart technology to influence how energy is managed in the UK to a Chinese green buildings specialist to a global solar light manufacturer that has reached more than five million households.

The winners of the 2016 Ashden Awards are:

UK Award winners

Cosy Homes in Lancashire (CHiL), a partnership between 14 local authorities  helping to prevent fuel poverty in some of the most deprived areas of the county,  wins the Ashden Award for Sustainable Homes, supported by the Berkeley Group.

Low Carbon Hub in Oxfordshire is a plucky social enterprise determined to put renewable energy in the hands of local people.  The organisation is a joint winner of the Ashden Award for Sustainable Communities, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Open Energi – winner of the Impax Ashden Award for Energy Innovation – works with large power-hungry clients to shift their demand for energy in real time, reducing stress on the national grid and helping create the right environment for renewable energy.

The Mayor of London’s highly successful RE:FIT London programme has so far supported the energy efficiency retrofit of more than 600 public sector buildings in London, making huge cost and carbon savings. RE:FIT London wins the Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings, supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Repowering London works with communities living in social housing in Brixton and Hackney to support them to install and manage their own solar installations Repowering also offers training and employment opportunities to young residents and is a joint winner of the Ashden Award for Sustainable Communities.

Tempus Energy aims to change the way the world buys and uses electricity, using smart equipment to connect customers with the cheapest available energy prices.  Tempus wins the Ashden Award for Smart Energy.

International Award winners

Bridges to Prosperity not only builds bridges but also teaches communities how to build and maintain these connections to healthcare, education and employment.  In total the organisation has completed 180 bridges in the past 14 years, serving more than 800,000 users, and wins the Eurostar Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel.

In India Frontier Markets provide high quality solar lamps and systems to hard-to-reach villages, using a network of trained women called Solar Sahelis. The organisation has sold over 100,000 in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, and wins the Ashden Award for Clean Energy for Women and Girls, supported by UK aid.

Greenlight Planet has reached more than four million households in remote regions of the world with its reliable solar products and are well on their way in their mission to deliver light that everyone can afford.  Greenlight Planet wins the Ashden Award for Increasing Energy Access, supported by the IKEA Foundation.

Nazava water filters – winner of the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy and Water, supported by the Waterloo Foundation – enable lower income households in Indonesia to purify their well or tap water without the need to boil it by burning wood or using electricity. This reduces disease and sickness, lowers household costs and reduces CO2 emissions.

Shanghai Landsea Planning & Architectural Design Co.Ltd is a leading practitioner of green buildings in China, boasting more than 40 projects totalling 2.5 million m2. Landsea wins the Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings, supported by Grosvenor.

SunFunder in Tanzania is unlocking reliable continuous capital for beyond-the-grid solar companies by providing investors the opportunity to lend to a carefully selected portfolio of solar businesses and has so far provided over $8 million of finance in ten countries. SunFunder wins the Ashden Award for Innovative Finance, supported by Citi.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, Ashden’s Founder Director, said: “The winners of this year’s Ashden Awards are really pushing the boundaries when it comes to innovation, being ahead of the curve and working towards our vision of a world where everyone has access to affordable clean energy.  We are proud to have the opportunity to support their game-changing work.”

The Ashden Awards were established in 2001 to reward and promote sustainable energy trailblazers and help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon world.  Each winner receives prize money as well as tailored support to scale up their work.


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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