Big Green Challenge winners announced

Four community groups have won NESTA’s Big Green Challenge – a £1 million prize fund backed by the Mirror, to encourage community-led carbon emission reductions – by slashing CO2 emissions by between 10-32 per cent in the past year alone. These results are set to treble[1] over the next three years easily exceeding the UK’s emissions reduction target of 34 per cent, ahead of time.[2]

The winning communities, announced today by Lord Puttnam, Chair of the judges are: The Green Valleys based in Brecon Beacons in Wales, the Household Energy Service based in Ludlow, Shropshire and Isle of Eigg in Scotland. Low Carbon West Oxford is a runner-up.  All winners will receive a share of the £1million prize fund.

Over 350 community groups, involving thousands of people from across the UK entered the competition. The winners, picked from ten finalists, were judged on their achievements in four areas: CO2 reductions achieved; the innovative nature of their initiatives; the longevity and scalability of their project and their level of community engagement.

Lord Puttnam commented: ‘Whilst Copenhagen showed just how difficult it is to reach consensus amongst governments, the Big Green Challenge shows how local efforts can triumph. When people are empowered and are given intelligent support they can make the world of difference in the fight against climate change’.
Jonathan Kestenbaum, NESTA’s Chief Executive says: ‘The Big Green Challenge has shown that communities are a vital force in solving some of society’s biggest problems. We can no longer afford to pay lip service to the importance of local solutions – now is the time to support communities to make a real difference.’

The awards are the culmination of a year-long experiment to test whether a Challenge Prize can be used to unlock the power of communities in responding to climate change. NESTA developed a rigorous target and evaluation mechanism – something which is lacking in many initiatives to date. The Big Green Challenge has attracted international interest in how to stimulate civic action, including from the X Prize Foundation in the US, which inspires people to develop technological breakthroughs.

The Winners

The Green Valleys is a community renewable energy scheme in Wales which has reduced carbon emissions by 20 per cent. Reductions were achieved across 155 households and 4 community buildings, including personal and community transport and the installation of a number of hydro schemes.

Household Energy Service (HES) is a free environmental survey service for local households in Shropshire, which has reduced carbon emissions by 10 per cent. Reductions were achieved through the provision of a home energy auditing service carried out by community volunteers and the subsequent energy efficiency actions carried out in 460 participating homes.

Isle of Eigg is an entire island community which is working together to reduce carbon emissions through a wide range of projects, from generating renewable electricity and installing insulation and solar panels to producing local food and developing low-carbon community transport schemes. This has led to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 32 per cent.

Low Carbon West Oxford (LCWO) was highly commended by the panel of judges. It is an environmental project featuring a range of community-owned renewable energy initiatives, which has reduced CO2 emissions by 28 per cent. These reductions were achieved across 55 households, including personal transport and community/ commercial buildings.

[1] Forecast in tonnes of reduced CO2 emissions
[2] The Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan published in July 2009, claims the UK has reduced greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2007 by 21% and that to deliver its 34% target by 2020, the UK has to reduce emissions by a further 18% by 2020. Across the four Big Green Challenge winners the average CO2 emission reduction is 15%, almost matching the outstanding 18% reduction required.
Contact:NESTA: Jan Singleton: 020 7438 2606/ or Catherine Anderson: 020 7438 2606/
Notes to editors:

NESTA is the largest independent endowment in the UK. Its mission is to support innovation to drive economic recovery and solve some of the UK’s major social challenges. NESTA is a world leader in its field and promotes innovation through a blend of practical programmes, policy and research and investment in early-stage companies.
About the Big Green Challenge

The Big Green Challenge, launched in October 2007, is NESTA’s £1million challenge prize designed to support community-led responses to climate change. Through the Big Green Challenge, it has been our aim to unlock the potential power of community-led innovation and uncover what support communities need to transform their bright ideas into viable solutions that will improve all of our lives.
In early 2008, 355 groups came forward with a wide range of imaginative and practical ideas for reducing CO2 emissions in their communities. We selected 100 of the most promising groups, who received support from the Big Green Challenge team to develop their ideas into detailed plans. From this group, we shortlisted ten finalists who received funding and support to put their ideas into practice over the course of a year to compete for the £1 million prize. They had until October 2009 to reduce CO2 emissions in their community. Monies awarded were £300,000 to The Green Valleys, the Household Energy Service and the Isle of Eigg and as a runner-up, Low Carbon West Oxford received £100,000.
What have we learnt from the Big Green Challenge?

When given the right incentives and support, communities are highly adept at coming up with new solutions. The Big Green Challenge received over 355 entries, including over 150 proposals from entirely new groups created in response to the challenge.
•Nearly 60 per cent of the communities looked to achieve multiple outcomes, rather than the single outcome focus that is more typical of government campaigns.
•This initiative reached individuals and groups that grant-led initiatives can’t: 40 per cent of the applications were from groups that are not registered charities, companies or public bodies.
•The Challenge reached new audiences: More than a third of applications came from groups without a previous focus on environmental issues.
•The process inspired more than just the winners: Over 50 percent of entrants who reached the second stage of the Big Green Challenge are continuing with their work despite not being selected as one of the ten finalists.