Winners of 2016 Ashden International Awards announced

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Trail blazers help sustainable energy to take off in East Africa

Two sustainable energy organisations operating in East Africa have both won a 2016 Ashden International Award – the world’s most prestigious green awards.

The Ashden Awards are a globally recognised measure of excellence in the field of sustainable energy and each winner receives up to £30,000 prize money as well as tailored support to scale up their work.

Based in Tanzania, SunFunder is helping to plug a vital funding gap between investors and businesses specialising in off-grid solar energy that need short-term loans, which tend to be expensive.

Winner of the Ashden Award for Innovative Finance, supported by Citi, SunFunder provides a reliable and continuous source of debt financing to solar businesses by giving investors the opportunity to lend to a carefully selected portfolio which helps spread the risk. The company has so far provided over $8 million of finance to solar businesses in ten countries, helping them to offer solar electricity to thousands of people.

According to the Award judges:

SunFunder is filling a crucial funding gap between those who have the money – investors – and those who don’t, in this instance solar businesses of all shapes and sizes that need short-term loans. The organisation has demonstrated that it’s very good at not just going for the low-hanging fruit but also at reaching the places that other finance companies can’t.

Audrey Desiderato, COO of SunFunder, said:

Solar energy is the most viable solution to replace fossil fuel energy sources and to increase energy access around the world. Yet, solar companies serving off-grid and grid-deficit communities face one common barrier – access to finance. Winning an Ashden Award will enable SunFunder to dedicate more time and money to solving this financing gap by unlocking capital for emerging market solar and proving to commercial investors that this is not just a high-impact sector, but also a bankable one with massive potential for scale.

Greenlight Planet, which to date has reached over five million households across the world with its Sun King(tm) solar products, makes 45% of its sales in East and Southern Africa and has a well-established network of sales agents in Kenya and Uganda. It carefully screens and selects strategic partners who can distribute its products out to the most remote regions and overcome final barriers to purchase such as affordability for the poorest consumers. Greenlight Planet wins the Ashden Award for Increasing Energy Access, supported by the IKEA Foundation.

The Award judges commented

Greenlight Planet -is revolutionising the solar lighting industry by offering a turn-key solution to distributors in very poor countries. The huge global reach of their work means that they are really
democratising solar energy for the masses.

Patrick Walsh, CEO of Greenlight Planet, said:

On behalf of our hardworking rural sales agents, employees and off-grid families everywhere, we thank Ashden for this recognition. Today, over 20 million off-grid villagers use Sun King for light every day. But to reach the one billion people who are still in the dark each night, we must continue to innovate to develop better technology, and find better ways to reach remote off-grid families and make energy more affordable to families that need it most.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, Ashden’s Founder Director, said:

Sustainable energy is interconnected with so many other huge issues in the developing world such as access to clean water, livelihoods, women’s empowerment and access to financing to be able to start a business. This year’s Ashden International Award winners are, without exception, all transforming lives and we are proud to have the opportunity to support their game-changing work.

Winners will be presented with their Award at a ceremony being hosted by BBC journalist Mishal Husain at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 9 June, when the winners of the Ashden UK and International Gold Awards will also be announced.

 

photo: ashden.org

June 2 (Thursday), 2016 |

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