This year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP), awarded at the opening of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi, witnessed two African winners: East Africa’s M-Kopa Solar, which excelled in the SME category, and a Swaziland school with an ambitious renewable energy plan.

In all, the ZFEP received nearly 1,000 entries in eight competitive categories, and winners chosen across these and two other categories were awarded more than four million dollars.

In an address, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said: “It all starts with an idea – and our bid to honour and continue the legacy of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan – who advocated for education and the development of human resources throughout his lifetime.

“We aim to encourage the bright minds and the innovators to find practical solutions for our world’s challenges; in a path towards a better future built on the pillars and foundations of sustainability.”

In the SME category, M-Kopa Solar won $1.5m for its work installing sustainable five-kilowatt integrated solar power, lighting, radio and phone charging systems into to 80,000 homes in rural communities in Kenya and Uganda.

Residents of these communities, many of whom live on less than $2 a day, can then use the money that they would otherwise have spent on more kerosene to improve their standard of living.

“As with mobile communications, we believe the impact of “wireless” technologies will transform energy in developing world economies and improve the lives of millions of low-income consumers,” said Jesse Moore, co-founder and MD of M-KOPA Solar.

Meanwhile, under the ‘global high schools’ category, five educational institutions were selected, one each from Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania.

In Africa, the Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa in Swaziland won with its ambitious plan to go carbon neutral by 2024 by installing solar panels and wind turbines to reduce reliance on grid electricity, and to set up a biogas digester for cooking.

Ben Green, head of experimental Sciences at the school, noted: “We will use the prize to inspire a generation of students from around the world. We thank you for your support and are looking forward to making our school a leader of sustainability in Swaziland.”

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi was also presented the first honorary award for his commitment to increasing Egypt’s reliance on renewables to 20% by 2020 by installing 4,300 MW of wind and solar power over the next three years.