Top Sustainable Energy Prize Awarded for Energy-Efficient Stove

An Indian firm has won the top prize for its design of a simple, energy efficient stove at this year's Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.  Tendai Maphosa was at the ceremony in London and has this report.

The mission for contestants was to use sustainable energy, help alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life in the developing world. This year the top Ashden Award, including a check for $80,000, went to a small firm in southern India.

Nobel Prize Laureate Wangai Maathai presented the prize for the Energy Champion Award to Technology Informatics Design Endeavor of India.  The company's energy efficient stove is particularly useful for small businesses, which often rely on wood as their main source of fuel.  Wood causes pollution and deforestation, not to mention uncomfortable and dangerous working conditions when boilers and stoves are badly designed.

Building on the track record of stove design at the renowned Indian Institute of Science, TIDE designed wood-burning stoves and kilns that use 30 percent less wood, and are tailor-made for specific small industries.

Technology Informatics representative at the awards ceremony Svati Bhogle said the stove her organization designed has made a big difference to users who previously used large amounts of wood for heating. 

"I think we have sold commercially about 10,000 stoves and we have saved about 120,000 tons of firewood," said Bhogle.

Bhogle said the stove is more energy efficient, uses less wood, and it has caught on with textile and brick-making firms.

Six other finalists received prizes of $40,000 each. Among these was the Gaia Association, which provides stoves that use ethanol fuel.  Those stoves are used at a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Milkyas Debebe of Gaia says the area around the camp had suffered from severe deforestation, and women were always in danger of being attacked when searching ever farther afield for firewood.

Set up in 2004, the Gaia Association gets its ethanol from molasses, a sugar by-product. Debebe told VOA the government-owned sugar factory did not have much use for the molasses before. 

"Before they started producing the ethanol from the molasses, they have been dumping," said Debebe. "Half of it were exported by very, very tiny amount of money, but mostly they have been dumping it, and it was polluting the environment."

Debebe says the stove, which is imported, has proved to be such a hit with the refugee camp's 17,000 occupants that Gaia wants to extend the project to other camps. He says there are plans to manufacture the stove locally.

Ashden founder and chairperson, Sarah Butler-Sloss, explained what the competition is about. 

"The key criteria that we are looking for when we are judging the award applicants is it's projects in the developing world that are bringing social, economic and environmental benefits," she said, "that are bringing energy, that brings benefits to communities and at the same time cut carbon emissions and help the environment."

The Ashden awards were set up in 2001 to highlight the benefits of sustainable energy and promote the technology. This year Ashden received 75 entries from developing countries. 

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