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Awards Honor Local Solutions to Climate Change


Climate change knows no boundaries, nor does the need for sustainable energy solutions. On Thursday, Britain's Prince Charles presented the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy to seven international finalists at a ceremony in London. The winning projects were designed to benefit both local communities and the environment.

It is not just world leaders and policy makers who are taking on the quest for sustainable energy solutions. The 2009 Ashden Awards in London honored innovators whose projects specifically promote clean energy in local communities.

Brian Hoskins is director of the Institute for Climate Change at London's Imperial College, which hosted the event. He praised the winners for their work.

"This is a global problem and here we have people looking at global solutions," he said. "The climate change issue is difficult because there is no one silver bullet. There is no one thing we can do, but there is a huge range of little things we can do. And what we've seen here is a range of those little things that are getting bigger too, and that's what's got to happen. They are just fantastic."

The winners included projects from India, China, the United States, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

Samson Tsegaye is from Ethiopia. His organization, the Solar Energy Foundation, seeks to bring affordable solar lighting systems to Ethiopian villages.

Tsegaye says the only sources of light for many people in Ethiopia are kerosene lamps or candles, which are dim and can emit harmful fumes. He says solar energy is a great solution because it is affordable, a better alternative for the environment, and can improve the quality of life for many.

"It's a great change for them. Today the families have time to do things at night. In Ethiopia, the sunlight goes down at six, and there is no alternative to do something. They just go to bed," he said. "But today, they have time, and kids can do their homework. Mothers can do outside things and then cook at night, and they have more time at night to do these things."

Also in Africa, Abasi Musisi and his company Kampala Jellitone Suppliers are promoting their energy solution in Uganda. Uganda uses large amounts of wood and charcoal to provide energy for homes and industry. This contributes to deforestation, which threatens the country.

In looking for an alternative fuel source for his coffee-roasting business, Musisi purchased equipment to make briquettes from agricultural wastes. These fuel briquettes, he says, are more efficient and cheaper than wood or charcoal. They also produce less smoke and faster cooking. Musisi says the briquettes are a better fire fuel and also help the local economy.

"The income for the farmers has improved because in the past they were selling only their grains, and now they are selling the residues to us as well. And we have created more employment, the transporters, even the people in the factories, even the people selling the briquettes," he said. "So there are social, economical, and financial benefits."

Musisi and Tsegaye, along with the other Ashden winners, each received more than $ 30,000 to help develop their projects.

The Ashden Awards declared one winner, Dean Still with the Aprovecho Research Center in the United States, as the Energy Champion. He received more than $65,000 for his project which mass-produced efficient stoves for burning wood and charcoal.

But Brian Hoskins says all of the projects are worthy of international attention.

"This is highlighting the opportunities, realizing that if we want to continue living on this planet, we've got to change the way we live here," he said.

Since 2001, the Ashden Awards have recognized more than 100 sustainable energy projects from around the world.

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