Women from Maduma village in Tanzania supported by Solar Sister. The group has directly supported women in poor countries to create over 3,500 sustainable businesses that provide clean energy to over 1.5 million people in Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Empowering rural women in the field of clean energy and providing electricity to more than 675,000 underprivileged people — those are just some of the few feats achieved by the selected finalists for the next edition of the Zayed Sustainability Prize, with the winners set to be announced during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week which takes place from January 12-19.

Launched in 2008 under the name of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, the programme is aimed at supporting and bringing awareness to groups and individuals who are pioneers in the field of sustainability. The Zayed Sustainability Prize has made a significant global impact since its first edition, with more than 289 million people around the world supported by clean energy projects that were awarded by the prize.

A prize fund of $600,000 will be awarded to the winners.

Solar Sister

Among the finalists for this year’s prize is Solar Sister, the world’s first scalable and women-led renewable energy distribution model that delivers clean energy solutions to the world’s poorest communities.

3500

sustainable businesses by women supported so far by Solar Sister

“We empower rural women with clean energy livelihoods, opening a door to greater energy security, financial savings, health, education and climate resilience. We serve the hardest to reach areas through a complete ecosystem of leading technology manufacturers, capacity development of local green workforce, and a chain of grass roots entrepreneurs,” said Katherine Lucey, the founder and chief executive officer of the group.

“Solar Sister believes that women are a key part of the solution to the clean energy challenge. This is why we invest in women in off-grid communities. We see the opportunity to empower women and reach those who do not have access to business-as-usual energy models,” she added.

We empower rural women with clean energy livelihoods, opening a door to greater energy security, financial savings, health, education and climate resilience.

- Katherine Lucey, Founder of Solar Sister

“We know that focusing on local women in a rapidly growing renewable energy sector is essential to eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable solutions to climate change and a host of development issues,” she said.

Highlighting the group’s success since its founding in 2010, Lucey said that over 3,500 sustainable businesses by women have been supported so far.

“Solar Sister was founded in 2010 to provide women with economic opportunity, training and support in distributing clean energy to underserved communities, in Africa. Since then we have directly supported women to create over 3,500 sustainable businesses that provide clean energy to over 1.5 million people in Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania.”

BBOXX

Another finalist for the prize is BBOX, a next generation utility platform that aims to bring clean and affordable energy to 20 million people living off-grid.

“The three co-founders of BBOXX met at Imperial College London while studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering. All three had travelled in the developing world and recognised the challenge posed to community and business development by the unreliable electrical supply,” said Mansour Hamayun, one of the co-founders of BBOXX.

“BBOXX has installed more than 150,000 solar home systems, providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity to 675,000 underserved people in developing countries. BBOXX is scaling rapidly by forging strategic partnerships with investors, governments, telecommunications firms and energy majors,” he added, commenting on the company’s achievements.

The three co-founders of BBOXX had travelled in the developing world and recognised the challenge posed to community by the unreliable electrical supply.

- Mansour Hamayun, Co-founder of BBOXX

“Switching from kerosene and conventional fuels to off-grid solar brings average savings of $200 every year for each household. In Kenya, BBOXX Home, BBOXX’s solar home system product, brings a backup solution to grid power to farmers, enabling increased production.

Acumen

Another finalist in contention for the prize is Acumen, with the group’s Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative (PEII) having reduced CO2 emissions by 6.4 million tons since 2016.

“Acumen’s mission is to change the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders, and ideas. We focus on the pioneer gap, where innovative seed or early-stage companies in low-income and emerging markets often struggle to access funding,” said Yasmina Zaidman, chief partnerships officer at Acumen.

We empower rural women with clean energy livelihoods, opening a door to greater energy security, financial savings, health, education and climate resilience.

- Yasmina Zaidman, Chief partnerships officer at Acumen

“The companies Acumen supports provide low-income communities with access to critical goods and services at an affordable price. These consumers represent an opportunity for transformative innovation where renewable energy is more than a substitute for traditional energy; it offers a new way to electrify communities,” she added.

“Acumen’s PEII portfolio has reduced CO2 and black carbon emissions by an estimated 6.4 million tons. Several of the companies we started working with in our first wave of investments have scaled to reach millions of customers and expand globally. As we work to develop the next wave of energy entrepreneurs, we see similar potential for scale and impact,” she said, highlighting the positive environmental impact the group has managed to achieve through its work and investments.