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Ashden Awards: Can sustainable energy scale up?



Renewable energy usage in the UK has seen a staggering 540% increase in the past ten years, while carbon emissions have dropped 26%. Part of this change may be because of advances in renewable energy technology, the introduction of renewables subsidies and the UK’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

And yet renewable and sustainable forms of energy still only account for 4% of the UK’s total annual energy consumption. Are we really making fast enough progress towards achieving the scale that’s needed for renewables to replace fossil fuels over the next few decades?

There are many barriers that are hampering the efforts of those who are trying to build a low-carbon future, including technological, financial, political and behavioural. The good news is, there are a growing number of organisations that are helping overcome these barriers, and finding a way to scale up their sustainable energy ideas.

With Ashden’s 2015 Awards less than a month away, here are three of this year’s UK Awards finalists, and the barriers they have overcome.

Max Fordham –

Max Fordham is an environmental engineering company that has been helping design and retrofit buildings with sustainability as the main priority for over 50 years. This goes against the grain of what is often practised in the building sector, which is historically very conservative and where cutting costs is often the goal.

By working with architects in optimising building performance from day one of a project, Max Fordham ensures they are as energy-efficient as possible. But even the best-designed buildings can gobble energy if they are not used properly, so Max Fordham carries out rigorous post-occupancy evaluations, working with the new occupants to make sure they get the best out of their building. Max Fordham has truly broken down the barriers of convention in its field, and is not shy about the fact – it regularly presents its work through trade publications and events, encouraging others to follow its lead.

Demand Logic –

Building Management Systems (BMSs) monitor and control the heating, ventilation and lighting of most large commercial and public buildings, but the sheer quantity of data they have access to means that making sense of it is all beyond the skills of a mere human being. Demand logic has created a system that can unearth energy-saving gems from these swathes of data, using ‘machine learning’ to analyse it and distil it into easy-to-read charts and graphs that highlight ‘energy insanities’, such as rooms that are being both heated and cooled, air conditioning running overnight and undiagnosed faults in equipment.

By making sense of the torrent of data that streams through a BMS, Demand Logic is enabling building managers to cut energy use, saving money on bills for the occupants while also cutting maintenance costs for the building owner. The potential for the technology is huge: with BMSs in use across the globe, managing millions of square metres of floor space, the energy savings that can be delivered are equally dramatic. By overcoming the technological barriers in its way, Demand Logic is on the path to reaching its full potential as a market leader in their field.

TGV Hydro –

TGV Hydro, a social enterprise based in Wales, is taking advantage of the country’s abundant hills and rainfall to pioneer cost-effective and streamlined methods of building micro-hydro projects. Getting planning permission and the required licenses was the main barrier TGV Hydro faced in its infancy, as well as the challenge of cutting costs. However, through local demonstration and unrelenting perseverance, it has become the benchmark for sustainable, low-impact micro-hydro in Wales.

TGV Hydro has also been able to significantly cut the cost of its micro-hydro systems by helping start Hydrolite, a local turbine manufacturer, by involving site owners in the construction of the projects and by keeping their business lean and agile. There’s room for significant expansion of micro-hydro within Wales, and also other hilly areas of the UK, and TGV Hydro has shown that the barriers of permissions, licensing and development cost are not insurmountable.

Learning more

This is just a small preview of the inspirational work of these organisations, all of which are striving to create a sustainable UK. If you’d like to find out more, come and meet the some of these and other Ashden Awards finalists in person at the Ashden UK seminar on 11 of June.

About the 2015 Ashden Awards

Ashden is a charity that rewards and promotes sustainable energy pioneers in the UK and across the globe.  Tickets for Ashden’s UK Seminar, Power Struggles: Overcoming the barriers to scaling up sustainable energy, are on sale now. You can book your place here. Tickets for the Ashden Awards Ceremony in the evening of 11 June are on sale here.

Julia Hawkins is PR and Digital Media Manager at Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy

Further reading:

2015 International Ashden Awards shortlist unveiled

An Ashden evening with Ed Davey and Zac Goldsmith

Abundance and Ecotricity among winners at Ashden Awards (2014)