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  • Stove projects stir up energy award success

Innovators bringing sustainable energy to communities in developing countries were recognised last night (19 June) at an awards ceremony held in London, United Kingdom.

Projects from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Tanzania and Uganda were all awarded prizes of £20,000 (around US$40,000) at the annual Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy.

The Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE) project, which designs safer and more efficient wood-burning stoves, was crowned the overall Energy Champion, winning a £40,000 prize.

These TIDE stoves are a boon for an estimated eight million people working in small industries in southern India — for example, in textile dying, spice drying and street food vendors.

Svati Bhogle, chief executive of TIDE, said the award "gives us the motivation to venture into uncharted terrain, to first break new ground and then develop it into a beaten track".

The stoves can use waste material such as coconut shells as well as wood. Improved heat transfer, insulation and combustion creates less heat and smoke, resulting in improved working conditions. They were designed with each industry specifically in mind, with users contributing to the development.

Bhogle said 10,500 stoves are now in use in 12 industry sectors, saving 140,000 tonnes of fuel and 200,000 tonnes of emitted carbon dioxide.

"There is a serious energy crisis in rural India, but access to energy and its efficient use, accompanied by well-conceived and well-implemented enabling mechanisms, has the potential to transform rural areas."

Other stoves were prominent among this year's winners. The Kisangani Smith Group in Tanzania designed a stove that uses compressed waste sawdust or rice husks, rather than expensive charcoal.

The GAIA association has opted to use ethanol fuel produced from the waste molasses of the sugar industry in their stoves, which they have distributed to Somalian refugees living in a large camp in eastern Ethiopia.

Elsewhere, both the Aryavart Gramin Bank in India and Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh — a 2006 winner and recipient of this year's Outstanding Achievement Award — provide affordable loans for people without access to the electricity grid to install solar power in their homes.

The Ugandan project, Fruits of the Nile, harnesses the power of the sun to dry fruit.  Simple solar dryers, constructed from a wooden frame covered with plastic, let the light in, keep insects out and use natural convection.

Ashden also published a report, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development, analysing ten previous winners. More ways must be found to provide financial and human resources for innovative research and development, it concluded, with clear national energy policies to guide projects.