If the customer runs into any sort of problems, Azuri monitors usage and, as Simon Bransfield-Garth, the founder and chief executive of Azuri explained to New African, they will call the customer to discover any issue with the equipment, and rectify it, should usage stop. When asked whether the security of a photovoltaic panel being installed on people’s roofs posed a problem, Bransfield-Garth said that would-be thieves realise that the equipment is useless without Azuri’s scratch-card top-up, and that the company had also designed it in such a way as to get around this particular problem. As another layer of security, top-up codes are sent via a secure SMS to customers, after they send the customer services department the scratch card number. Without the code, the system will not generate electricity.
But the Ashden Awards also recognised other types of sustainable energy systems as deserving of acknowledgement, such as the many enterprises that are focussed on supplying efficient cook stoves that will use less biomass fuel, such as firewood and charcoal. Impact Carbon is one such organisation. Its operational model is to partner with local and international organisations the world over to improve health, protect the environment and fight poverty by using carbon finance.
Impact Carbon are experts in developing carbon finance projects and have over the last decade brought efficient and cleaner technologies to over one million people. It is a simple concept. Impact Carbon has identified that exposure to smoke from dirty fuels and inefficient cook stoves – which they believe over half the world’s population rely on to meet basic energy needs – causes two million premature deaths each year, mainly of women and children.
While they are also involved with water filtration initiatives, that can also attract carbon credits as they save the firewood and charcoal that would be used to boil water to make it potable, the cook stove has posted some major achievements in East Africa. Impact Carbon reckons that improved cook stove technologies can save families more than $110 a year in fuel costs, typically reducing biofuel use by two thirds. In Uganda for example (one of five cook stove projects around the world), the improved cook stove has been distributed to close to 200,000 families. The organisation employs around 50 individuals and supports the income of 880 retailers.
Evan Haigler, who leads the Impact Carbon team in developing carbon finance for projects in less-developed countries, explained to New African that the Uganda operations alone have displaced nearly one million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and saved some 700,000 trees.
It’s a similar story in DR Congo where the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is supporting the establishment of the local production of efficient cook stoves in order to cut down the use of charcoal. After trials and testing, the WWF selected the Jiko Nguvu Nyeusi (Black Power Stove) for mass production and distribution. This has a ceramic liner (made by local womens’ associations) with a metal stove body (made by mens’ associations).
The success of this project is staggering. By March this year, a total of 45,000 stoves had been produced by the WWF affiliates, with 55 per cent of them sold in Goma. Each stove costs under $10, and with the savings from charcoal they pay for themselves in about two weeks of normal use. The WWF project has also helped start a 3,900ha plantation to supply fast-growing trees for charcoal production on a sustainable basis.
The WWF is trying to stop the felling of trees in the Virunga National Park by illegal charcoal producers that previously supplied about 80 per cent of the charcoal sold in Goma, which the WWF’s Juan Sève (who leads the project) estimates has a population of around one million, 90% of who cook with charcoal. Virunga National Park is considered of huge importance for the biodiversity it contains, and it is also home to the endangered mountain gorilla. It is estimated that the Jiko Nguvu Nyeusi has saved 7,500ha of forest.