[MELBOURNE] A social enterprise that says it helped to cut binge drinking in Vanuatu by selling solar-powered lanterns is one of ten nominees for a new award that aims to highlight organisations that champion green energy in small island developing states (SIDS) .
Four of the ten candidates for the SIDS Awards 2013 are from the Pacific, including Green Power, which is shortlisted for its work selling solar-powered lights to people in Vanuatu who often lack access to cheap power and so may use kerosene and batteries to power lights and burn wood for cooking.
Green Power managing director David Stein says that the lanterns have brought behavioural changes and improved the quality of local life as alcoholism and substance abuse have fallen since the scheme began.
"Lighting is a primary determinant of the quality of life. With access to artificial lighting, people now have the opportunity to extend the length of the productive day," he says. This can allow them to study for longer and can also broaden access to 24-hour health care, he adds.
Another nominee, Fijian company Paradise Technologies, helped reduce electricity costs for domestic users — and cut carbon emissions — by selling energy-efficient lighting and cooling systems, says Kamlesh Kishan Raju, the firm's assistant financial controller.
The two other nominees from the Pacific are the Island Economic and Environmental Co., which sells solar products to people who do not have access to the electricity grid in the Marshall Islands, and the National Development Bank of Palau, which offers loans for renewable energy and energy-efficiency schemes for houses.
The SIDS Awards were introduced this year as part of the annual London-based Ashden Awards run by Ashden, a charity that promotes universal access to sustainable energy. The overall awards serve to recognise ground-breaking green energy champions around the world.
Within that, the SIDS Awards aim to recognise businesses or enterprises that have contributed to the economies and social welfare of small island nations in the developing world through the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Ashden founding director Sarah Butler-Sloss says: "With their natural resource limitations, high fuel costs and threats to their very existence, small island states have no option but to pursue sustainable forms of energy. They're starting to do things that the rest of the world will end up having to do anyway. They could end up leading the rest of the world in this area."
She adds that the award will play a pivotal role in raising issues faced by SIDS.
"Small island states are gravely threatened by climate change, aside from being extremely vulnerable to oil price shocks, and need urgent help to transform their energy culture and reduce their dependence on importing fossil fuels. Doing this would help make them less vulnerable, generate local employment and free up funds to invest in their future. Green energy trailblazers in small islands need to be promoted and supported to grow," says Butler-Sloss.
The two grand prize winners of the SIDS Award will each receive £20,000 (US$32,000) and business support. There will also be two runners-up, who will each get around US$8,000.
The winners will be announced in May 2013.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.