An extremely select jury of international experts in climate change solutions, headed up by IPPC chairman, Nobel prizewinner Dr Pachauri, decided that the Danish wind giant Vestas should be the winner of this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize, which honors the environmental vision of the late founder and former President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.The competition is intended to foster the innovation, long-term vision and leadership in renewable energy and sustainability that the world is in desperate need of. But the thing about innovators is that they innovate. Vestas did something surprising with its $1.5 million Zayed prize.
Vestas was selected for its outstanding scale of achievement and its enviable track record – evolving as it did from a small country with little energy resources into a global leader in delivering renewable power. The company’s 41,000 turbines are now spread throughout 65 countries across five continents – creating more wind power capacity than any other company, and generate more than 60 million MWh of energy each year, enough to power 21 million people.
But within minutes of receiving the prize, CEO Ditlev Engel turned around and announced he was forwarding the coveted prize to others he considered more deserving of such a recognition of innovation.
Vestas split half of its $1.5 million between 3 renewable energy industry companies.
Vestas first selected Terry Tamminen, author of Cracking the Carbon Code: The Key to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy and CEO of 7th Generation Advisors for $250,000. It is a climate solutions firm in California that helps businesses reduce carbon costs – and advises governments on how to get good carbon policies implemented, despite climate deniers and industry push-back.
The other two shares of $250,000 each went to Barefoot College, a third world NGO that trains women to help develop a clean energy economy from the ground up in rural India, and the rapidly growing thinfilm giant First Solar that has been very effective in getting its thin film solar projects off the ground in California.
Perhaps more in keeping with jury wishes, Vestas (kind of) kept half of the $1.5 million award, giving $750,000 to a very clever marketing non-profit organization that it is helping launch. WindMade gives businesses boasting rights to tell their customers if their business is powered by wind. A subtle and effective way to grow wind power by pushing companies in their search to win customers by doing the right thing.
In second guessing the jury choice, by giving away their award, Vestas overruled such luminaries as the President of Iceland, the President of MIT, the Jordanian Energy Minister, the chair of Masdar, and the founder of the international sustainable architecture firm Foster+Partners.
And that’s just the jury. To serve on the initial selection committee, Masdar asked the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to send Scenarios & Policy Regional Manager Mika Ohbayashi.
Along with jury chair chair Dr Tariq Ali, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute supplied Dr Steve Griffiths, Executive Director of Institute Initiatives and Professor Chemical Engineering, and Ziad Tassabehji, Director of Utilities and Asset Management, and Eswar Mani, Senior Associate at Masdar Capital. The Emirates Wildlife Society sent Managing Director, Razan Al Mubarak, who also chairs the WorldWide Fund for Nature.
Flown from New York was Michael Liebreich, Chairman and Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Perhaps Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel should just be directly selected for jury duty for next year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize.
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