The world's leading green energy prize announced on Thursday that a China renewable energy project has been shortlisted along with projects from Africa, Asia and Latin America for energy champion.
Shining a light on the yak-herders of China, a solar revolution for tent-dwellers which represents Renewable Energy Development Project (REDP), will compete to be the Ashden Awards' Energy Champion, with prize money of up to 40,000 pounds (some $80,000), said a press release from the Award.
Since 2001, REDP has enabled sales of over 402,000 photovoltaic solar-home systems to rural people who live off the land by tending yaks or other animals in remote areas of western and northwestern China. Previously most relied on kerosene, butter lamps and candles for light.
Around 1.6 million people, who live in tents for at least part of the year and had little access to electricity, now have an improved quality of life through better light, communications and entertainment. The portable systems are ideally suited to the lifestyle of these semi-nomadic users who are able to take them with their tents into the summer pasture in the hills.
The solar-home system comprised of two lights, a radio and a mobile phone charger was installed through the REDP-subsidized program between 2001 and 2007 in a portable metal carry-case. Larger systems can power radio-cassettes, TVs and DVD players. The average sale price in 2007 was 1,221 yuan ($176), about the same as the price of a yak. For users, the main benefit of the REDP program was brighter, cleaner lighting, for study, work and recreation. Use of radio-cassettes and mobile phones, to keep in touch with the outside world, is also greatly appreciated.
Yak herder Yongzang, said from his tent: "We bought the system just in time for the spring festival last year. We had the money saved up from selling fungus .. it's so much better than before -- we used to just have candles .. It's good for charging the phone, and for the music. It's good that we can carry it with us -- we came here just a week ago for the spring pasture now that the snow's melted."
The China project, set up in 2001 by the National Development and Reform Commission and the World Bank, with funding from the Global Environment Facility, aims at promoting the solar-home systems in remote off-grid homes in nine western Chinese province and facilitating cooperation between the PV sector in China and the rest of the world.
The Ashden Awards are a UK-based charity that works to increase the use of local sustainable energy worldwide. They find, reward and publicize the work of leading sustainable energy programs working across the developing world and in Britain.
The overall international winner -- energy champion -- will be announced on June 19 at a ceremony in London.
(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2008)