In an event that had all the production value of a Hollywood awards show, Danish wind energy giant was awarded the $1.5 million Zayed Future Energy Prize on Tuesday night at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Presented to Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel by His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed Forces, the $1.5 million Zayed Future Energy Prize recognized Vestas for "outstanding leadership to pioneer wind energy, even during periods where demand for renewable energy waned."
"We have a lot of happy and proud 22,000 employees worldwide," Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel told reporters after the ceremony.
Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the prize jury and Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: "Vestas clearly stood out for a number of reasons, and most importantly, for dynamically changing wind-energy technology, something that requires imagination, vision and dedication."
"Innovation doesn't come about through a flash in the pan," said Pachauri, "it is something that requires enormous perseverance, clarity of purpose, efforts and resources."
Six finalists were highlighted during the evening's program, and in addition to Vestas' three were given cash prizes.
Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute received the $350,000 first runner-up prize for his work in "integrative design" in buildings, vehicles and manufacturing processes.
Lovins describes “integrative design” as a powerful and globally applicable new tool for shifting rapidly from oil and coal to efficiency and renewable. Lovins is credited with demonstrating "disruptively-large and cheap energy savings" across a variety of buildings, vehicles and factories. And in my opinion, anyone who can harvest large annual crops of bananas at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level deserves something for his efforts.
Lovins told reporters after the event that he accepted the prize recognizing "Gratitude to the past, service to the present and responsibility to the future."
The third runner-up, also receiving $350,000 was E+Co, for its work investing in small and growing clean energy enterprises in developing countries to impact climate change and energy poverty
But the surprise of the evening, came when Vestas CEO Detlev said the company would be donating the $1.5 million first prize to the three other finalists not already recognized by the review committee and WindMade, a new non-profit global consumer label identifying products and corporations made with wind energy.
Those finalists are Barefoot College, an institution that trains women in rural India to contribute to solar energy development; solar energy manufacturer, First Solar, and; Terry Tamminen, CEO and Founder of 7th Generation Advisors (and the policy brains behind California's landmark global warming law AB 32).
"The choice was not easy," said Dr. Pachauri noting that he was most proud of the fact that the whittling down of 391 submissions from 69 countries was made by consensus.
The Zayed Future Energy Prize represents the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, who long championed environmental stewardship, and "who was aware — even decades ago — of the importance of reaching a balance between preserving the environment and maintaining economic growth," said His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
"It his vision that has forged a unique path for the UAE, and has served as a beacon for us to follow as we begin to harness new sources of power and ensure we preserve the local heritage and natural resources," HH General Sheikh Mohammed added.