The first ever US$1 million UN-DESA Energy Grant has been awarded to We Care Solar, a non-profit organization, to enhance and expand the use of its ‘Solar Suitcase’. By making solar power simple, accessible and affordable, this device allows for the provision of electricity for medical procedures during childbirth in many developing countries, helping to avoid life-threatening complications for mothers and children.
“The United Nations is shining a light on an area that has all too often been overlooked — the lack of reliable electricity in health facilities,” said Laura Stachel, co-founder of We Care Solar, after receiving the award. “I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of health workers who have seen the miracle of light and power in saving lives, and we have much more work to do. This award is the beginning of a brighter future for women everywhere. No woman should die giving life,” she said.
“This award is the beginning of a brighter future for women everywhere. No woman should die giving life”
We Care Solar
The Solar Suitcase provides off-grid health clinics with solar power for critical obstetric and surgical lighting, mobile phones, fetal heart rate monitors and other essential medical devices. It thereby facilitates timely and appropriate emergency care, reducing maternal and infant morbidity in more than 20 countries in Africa and South Asia.
In the last five years, We Care Solar, in close collaboration with local partners, has succeeded in empowering 5,000 health workers in the areas of solar energy utilization, installation and servicing to ensure the Solar Suitcases have a long-lasting impact. With the help of the Grant, We Care Solar will be able to bring the programme to scale, maximize the products’ effectiveness, and build capacity.
A Special Award was given to Masdar, the Renewable Energy Company of Abu Dhabi, for its leadership, vision, innovation and long-standing successful efforts in advancing clean energy around the world. “I am honoured that Masdar has been recognized for our achievements in making the goal of providing greater access to energy worldwide a reality”, said Nawal Al-Hosany, Director of Sustainability at Masdar.
BYD received special recognition for its dedication to the promotion of clean technologies in the area of public transportation, which accounts for one third of total pollutants from transportation. To date, BYD’s electrified transportation fleets have been adopted in over 150 cities in 36 countries.
Sustainable energy crucial for achieving development goals
In his opening remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described sustainable energy as a key priority for the United Nations that connects economic growth, social equity, a stable climate and a healthy environment. “Energy underpins our efforts to achieve development objectives — from reducing extreme poverty to enhancing food security, from powering essential health services to providing electricity for education,” he said.
Despite strenuous efforts by the international community, one person in five still lacks access to electricity; more than a third of humanity relies on wood, charcoal, animal and crop waste for cooking and heating; and some 4 million people die each year from the effects of indoor air pollutants.
The Secretary-General commended the event as going beyond a symbolic ceremony and as celebrating the initiatives and actions of all 12 selected grant applicants.
UN-DESA Grant a unique undertaking
The President of the 69th session of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, sees in the Grant “an opportunity to show the world the best examples that demonstrate how science, technology and innovation can be put into practice to induce change and to transform the world”. He also noted that the Grant is a unique undertaking that focuses on and stresses the need for not only innovation and implementation but for capacity building on energy for sustainable development.
UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo expressed his deep gratitude to the Grant applicants, saying that they had demonstrated through their initiatives and actions how they are contributing to the United Nations vision of sustainable energy. He also recognized the leadership of the China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC), whose funding support has made this Grant possible.
“Energy belongs to everyone on this earth, and access to energy should be a basic human right for every man and woman, there is enough energy to go around for all of us,” said Patrick Ho, Secretary-General of the China Energy Fund Committee.
The “Powering the Future We Want” initiative
The UN-DESA Energy Grant is a capacity building initiative launched and managed by UN-DESA, in collaboration with the CEFC, a Hong Kong based NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC. Titled “Powering the Future We Want”, this initiative offers a grant in the amount of one million US dollars to fund capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development. The grant is awarded to an individual, institution or partnership based on past and current achievements in leadership and innovative practices in advancing energy for sustainable development.
For its first award, the UN-DESA Energy Grant received over 200 applications. The winner has been selected through a rigorous review and objective assessment of these applications, undertaken in multiple stages, guided by an Advisory Council and a High-level Steering Committee. The initiative will be implemented annually.