A Karnataka microfinance organisation, which provides affordable loans to the poor to help them plan their energy needs, has won the prestigious Ashden Gold Award, given annually by Ashden, a British charity, for promoting universal access to sustainable energy.

The Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRDP) was awarded the £40,000 prize money at a ceremony in London on Wednesday.

Judges described SKDRP as a “fantastic example” of how ethically managed microfinance could deliver sustainable energy to the poor.

“We were bowled over by the scale SKDRDP has achieved so far, along with the responsibility it takes for lending to the poor, nurturing users to take out effective loans. SKDRDP has huge potential to expand its work even further, and to inspire many others to follow its lead,” they said.

L.H. Manjunath, executive director of SKDRDP, said it was important to recognise that the poor needed financial support to acquire sustainable energy assets.

“For too long, microcredit only meant improving livelihoods. This award will redefine the scope of microcredit,” he said.

Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and Chair of UN-Energy, which campaigns for increasing access to energy for the poor, urged governments around the world to support clean energy pioneers.

“The Ashden 2012 winners are exposing the myth that poor countries cannot stimulate growth without degrading the environment. They are demonstrating that sustainable energy stimulates green growth and new jobs, lifts people out of poverty, improves health and opens up new educational opportunities.”

Sarah Butler-Sloss, Founder Director of Ashden said: “In this uncertain world our winners offer a beacon of hope, showing that access to sustainable energy offers a clear route out of poverty for millions of people around the world. We’re committed to sharing the lessons they have learned so they can be replicated far and wide.”

Other award-winners included a community-owned micro-hydro programme in Indonesia (IBEKA), and a project in remote Afghanistan (GIZ/INTEGRATION).

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