Efforts to bring renewable energy to remote villages honoured by UN

Efforts to bring renewable energy to remote villages honoured by UN

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme
Two initiatives to bring clean power to remote communities off the electricity grid in isolated areas of Peru and Laos are this year’s recipients of the prestigious Sasakawa Prize awarded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Two initiatives to bring clean power to remote communities off the electricity grid in isolated areas of Peru and Laos are this year’s recipients of the prestigious Sasakawa Prize awarded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Practical Action of Peru and Sunlabob Rural Energy Ltd of Laos, which are extending solar and hydropower to the most far-flung regions of both nations, were selected by a five-member jury and will each receive $100,000.

The theme for this year’s Prize, which sees to spur sustainable grassroots programmes, was “Moving towards a low carbon economy,” which is also the focus of this year’s World Environment Day, to be marked tomorrow.

“Addressing the monumental challenge of the 21st century involves practical projects at ground level that bring tangible changes,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

He said that the work of Sunlabob and Practical Action are “setting further examples of the energy alternatives available to the developing but also the developed world.”

Established in 2001, Sunlabob brings energy to remote areas of Laos, where less than half of the population has access to grid electricity. The company provides an incentive to families in over 70 villages to rent solar-home-systems and solar lanterns at a lower cost than kerosene lamps, which are highly polluting and more dangerous, causing burns and starting fires.

Sunlabob is installing 500 systems annually, and a new investment will boost that number to 2,500 next year and 5,000 in 2010.

In Peru’s eastern Andes region, 68 per cent of the population, or 5 million people, lack access to power, and Practical Action has harnessed the area’s potential for hydroelectricity by installing nearly 50 systems reaching 30,000 people.

This project is also helping local industries since most of these turbines are built by small Peruvian companies.