Tomorrow’s world: Zayed Future Energy Prize

As it enters its seventh year, Vision explores the success of the Zayed Future Energy Prize for promoting sustainability and instilling a sense of responsibility in the younger generation

With a total value of US$4m, the Zayed Future Energy Prize is the world’s largest annual prize purse in renewable energy and sustainability.

The award recognises the achievements of the next generation of global energy innovators - whether individuals, students, companies, organisations or NGOs. Over the years, the award has impacted millions of lives, with its 30 winners delivering tangible results on the ground such as training thousands of women as green technicians, delivering solar home systems to millions in Bangladesh and creating access to safe drinking water to millions in Africa. The Prize has also funded university scholarship to students around the world.

“Throughout history, prizes have proven to be a mechanism to encourage innovation,” says His Excellency Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Director General of the Zayed Future Energy Prize. “The Zayed Future Energy Prize is a commitment by the UAE’s government to incentivise people, organisations and schools to tackle today’s pressing energy and sustainability challenges.”

Last year for the first time, five high schools from across the globe were each awarded US$100,000 by the Zayed Future Energy Prize for their proposed sustainability projects. By reaching out to the young, the organisers hope to inspire future generations across the globe by instilling a green ethos from an early age.

Among the Global High Schools Prize winners last year was the Bronx Design & Construction Academy (BDCA), home to the first approved public school green roof in New York City. The students of the ninth grade Ecology class and after-school Green Science Club use so-called ‘greenwall’ and ‘greenroof’ technology to harness the sun’s energy and store water: solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system have been installed on their building’s roof. Sustainability, environmental awareness, and stewardships are at the core of BDCA’s learning environment. The Academy says its integrated curriculum helps students make connections between technology, science, and real world problems in order to put forward environmentally sustainable solutions to contemporary and upcoming development challenges.

A high bar has been set for the sustainability champions of the future, and the 2015 edition – whose submissions and nominations opened at the start of February – will again reward those making a significant difference to what is possibly mankind’s most pressing issue.

“Now in its seventh year, we are proud of the impact the Prize is delivering. From electrifying rural villages in Africa to accelerating to market energy-efficiency technologies, our winners and finalists are leaving a positive mark on the world,” adds HE Dr Al Jaber.