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Sustainable energy prize deserves more attention

By Du Juan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-10 07:53

Al Gore, former vice-president of the United States, was awarded the Zayed Future Energy Prize Lifetime Achievement on Jan 19 in Abu Dhabi.

The prize is a $4 million award sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, which is widely recognized as the highest distinction in the field of renewable energy and sustainability.

Gore's award drew more media attention than last year's winner, who was Chinese entrepreneur Wang Changfu, founder and president of BYD Co Ltd, a leading alternative-fuel vehicle producer in China.

The prize was a significant recognition of the efforts of BYD, a private company that focuses on developing electric cars to reduce carbon emissions. Wang's story inspired many foreign participants during the award ceremony last year, which was attended by thousands of politicians from many countries, climate change advocates, business officials and members of international organizations.

In addition to large corporations and business leaders, the prize also recognizes communities and small projects that try to achieve sustainability by innovation. However, it has not aroused much interest in China, even though the country is the biggest energy consumer and has the world's largest installed capacity for renewable energy.

Nawal Al-Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar, a State-owned renewable energy company in the UAE and representative of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, paid her first visit to Beijing in 2013 to encourage more Chinese companies, individuals and community projects to apply for the prize.

She told me that the number of Chinese applicants was not in line with China's huge renewable energy industry, especially solar. There could be many reasons for that.

Cultural differences are one. Except for huge shopping malls and luxury racing cars in Dubai, the Chinese impression of the UAE remains one of deserts and rich oil reserves. So it is hard to expect a school association or community group will even think about applying for a sustainability award in Abu Dhabi.

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