The 2018 Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) finalists in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME), Nonprofit categories have just been announced

28 October 2017 by  on Clean Technica

The 2018 Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) finalists in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME), Nonprofit, and Global High Schools categories have just been announced.

The next step in the ZFEP evaluation process is that the ZFEP Jury, led by Ólafur Grímsson, the 5th President of the Republic of Iceland, will debate the merits and limitations of the finalists to choose the winners. The finalists made their way through rigorous rounds of evaluation from BNEF, the Selection Committee, and the Review Committee (which I’m a part of) to arrive at the final stage.  These finalists are chosen from a pool of thousands of submissions. (Though, note that there are also finalists in the Large Corporation and Lifetime Achievement Award categories that haven’t been announced yet.)

You can check out the 2018 finalists below, but I’m first including a video I recorded earlier this year of Ólafur Grímsson, the 5th President of the Republic of Iceland, talking about the historic cleantech shift we’re in the midst of and explaining the significance of the finalists and the prize in that shift. This comes from his presentation to the finalists of the 2017 ZFEP. Check it out.

Now, on to the finalists. I’m going to cover the high schools in a separate article, but here are the SME & Nonprofit finalists for the 2018 ZFEP:


Sunna Design conceives, manufactures and retails smart solar street lighting particularly adapted to emerging-market environments. Its lamps use a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery chemistry that is resilient to low and high temperatures and has a 10-year lifetime, making it well-suited to remote places with extreme climates. The company has installed about 10,000 lamps in 40 countries working with local partners. Its products are widespread across Africa, parts of the Middle East and India.

It produces a wide variety of models, including a lamp that can provide electricity to 4 local households for LED lighting and phone charging. In this way the solar street light both illuminates a public area and brings electricity to those without. The system becomes a pay-as-you-go NanoGrid, where households can prepay for the energy they use via mobile money applications.  Sunna Design’s solar street lights also have integrated energy management technology, which optimizes the energy consumption and controls the integrated NiMH battery efficiently so that the solar power lasts throughout the night without interruption. Its smart solar lamps can also collect data about the surrounding environment and transmit information about the performance of the lamp back to a central control platform.

Sunna Design has also created a “factory of the future” in Bordeaux, France, that it says can produce 100,000 solar street lights a year. The factory is built on a mobile, modular concept and was piloted in early 2017 in Barnako, Mali in partnership with Solektra and Akon Lighting Africa. Partnerships are in place to roll out the factory concept in Brazil, Algeria and the U.A.E. Rolling out factories on a wider scale and manufacturing locally would enable Sunna Design to help developing economies by providing employment and improving the quality of life in off-grid environments with its lighting.

BBOXX offers electrification services for remote, off-grid customers in emerging markets. The candidate designs, manufactures, distributes, retails, finances and services solar energy systems. It has software solutions for grid extensions, micro-grids and large solar projects. The BBOXX Hub is a remotely-monitored control device that can support payment and conduct proactive maintenance.

The BBOXX Home System combines solar panels and batteries with lighting and charging points, with entertainment products such as radios and TVs offered in addition. Covering the two business units, BBOXX Pulse is a business management software, which makes it possible to track and analyze all activities, gather data, conduct mobile payments, manage the product warehouse and provides an e-learning academy for workforce training. BBOXX serves 150,000 households with solar home systems globally and estimates that it adds an additional 6,000 every month. It controls an estimated total capacity of 40MW of solar panels across 35 countries.

1366 Technologies has developed a new process for making highly efficient silicon wafers, which typically account for almost 40% of the cost of a solar module. The process cuts the cost of wafer manufacturing by more than 50% and reduces the energy required by more than 60% when compared to traditional silicon ingot sawing techniques that are now used in about 90% of wafer production.

 The wafers are very similar to traditional wafer cells and can be used in more than 80% of solar manufacturing facilities worldwide without the need to install new equipment. In the past year, 1366 has made significant improvements to its cell efficiency and has delivered on its first commercial installation – a 50KW installation in Japan.  The company takes the protection of its intellectual property seriously. It has more than 60 issued and pending patent applications, including one for “Method and Apparatus of Making Thin Semiconductor Sheets from Molten Material.”

Traditional wafer manufacturing involves melting down silicon into large blocks of crystalline silicon (ingots), which are then cut into bricks,  polished and sliced into wafers. The slicing is particularly wasteful, with much of the raw material ground into dust. As much as half the silicon is wasted in addition to kilometres of diamond-edged cutting wire per block. In contrast, 1366’s “Direct Wafer” process melts the top layer of silicon, then uses laser sensors to cool the layer, creating a hardened top piece that is then removed and cut to size to form the final wafer. Leftover trimmings are recycled back into the melting process. This process uses less energy and wastes less silicon, according to the company.  The molten polysilicon is held to the substrate by vacuum suction during less than 10 seconds of contact. Once the solidification reaches the desired thickness, the substrate is moved away from the melt, with the grown wafer attached. Gas pressure may then be applied to separate the wafer from the substrate, creating the final solar wafer in less than 10 seconds. (This process is deduced from the 1366 patent and hasn’t been confirmed by the company).


Selco Foundation focuses on poverty alleviation by introducing social, financial and technical innovations into a community. They provide financial products which are flexible around different earning profiles to increase market access to renewable energy. The NPO also provides technologies and implementing processes that improve efficiency and availability of energy. Finally, they deliver educational programs to the community.

Selco Foundation is active in rural and urban slum districts across 10 states in India and also in four countries in Africa. It has implemented over a hundred projects based on their Integrated Energy Center or IEC model which has directly impacted over 100,000 people, by its own estimate. The centers target low-income households and demonstrate the principles of sustainability combining the three pillars that the organization is based on – financial, technical, and social innovations. The Foundation was created by Selco India in 2010. Selco India is a for-profit organization that provides energy access to underserved households and businesses. Selco Foundation’s CEO, Harish Hande, is also the co-founder and managing director of Selco India.

Solar Sister is a not-for-profit organization that combines clean energy access and women’s enterprise. It creates sustainable businesses by investing in a network of women entrepreneurs who sell and deliver clean energy to their communities in rural Africa.

The entrepreneurs are recruited through Solar Sister’s relationships with local leaders and recommendations from partners who have penetrated the remote communities through the projects delivered. A Business Development Associate (BDA) is allocated to provide business advice, mentoring and support to each entrepreneur and guide them through the growth of their business. The Solar Sister entrepreneurs purchase their stock from their BDA who helps them understand the unique needs of their market. A mark-up is added to the final price which the entrepreneurs keep as their earnings.

Solar Sister has recruited roughly 2,500 women entrepreneurs in Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania who in turn have delivered solar and clean cooking solutions to over 848,000 beneficiaries via the distribution of around 100,000 products, according to their application.

We Care Solar saves lives in childbirth by supplying solar power to remote health centers across Africa and Asia. In developing countries, midwives and doctors struggle to provide obstetric care at night. We Care Solar designs and manufactures a “Solar Suitcase”: a 12 volt DC solar electric system with 40W or 80W solar panels combined with efficient appliances – medical lights, phone chargers, and the option of a fetal heart rate monitor.

The Solar Suitcase is portable, durable and has been deployed in 2,400 health facilities serving over 1 million deliveries to date. The organization also conducts training for installation, usage and maintenance so that Solar Suitcases are operated effectively.  The organization’s high-level advocacy efforts helped get energy for women and child healthcare labelled a SE4ALL “High Impact Opportunity” (HIO) project. Its work to raise awareness in the media and global forums has been very successful and is on-going. It also runs an education program, We Share Solar, in the U.S. The program promotes hands-on science and technology skills, and solar energy knowledge.