Winning Voices: Students and Judges Celebrate the Climate Change Thought Leadership Award

Two winners of this year’s Climate Change Thought Leadership Awards have been announced after weeks of careful deliberation by a panel of expert judges.

In this blog, we learn more about the student’s winning projects and their research journeys, including their reaction at scooping the prize.

Investing in the future of the renewable industry

Privilege Finance run the awards every year to identify and nurture future leaders of the renewable energy industry, based on their dissertation projects which look at pioneering solutions to climate change.

Entrants are split into two categories: students completing a Master’s degree; and those completing a PhD. The winners from each category win a £1,000 cash prize and a tour of an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, alongside invaluable networking and mentoring opportunities.

Here’s what the students had to say.

PhD winner – Maryam Dewiandratika

The winner from this year’s PhD category – Maryam Dewiandratika from Imperial College London – completed a research project focussing on improving the process by which woody agricultural byproducts like straw is broken down by anaerobic digestion in developing countries.

“The inspiration for my research came from the fact that in my home country the primary method of disposing of agricultural residues, like sugarcane bagasse and rice straw, is open field burning,” said Ms Dewiandratika.

“This causes huge amounts of air pollution, so by finding a way to help break down these tough residues, more of this waste can be reutilised by anaerobic digestion.”

The judges were very impressed by the impact that Ms Dewiandratika’s research could have on the developing world.

Chris Winward, chief executive officer of Privilege Finance, explains, “by using local materials to increase the effectiveness breaking down agricultural waste products that would otherwise be burnt, Maryam’s research represents the potential for huge carbon savings.”

Master’s winner – Jack Baker

Securing the Master’s prize was Jack Baker from the University of Exeter, whose research project compared different domestic shower systems to create a highly efficient wastewater heat recovery mechanism that could be retrofitted in homes across the UK.

“I wanted to use my dissertation to find an alternative to the shower wastewater heat

recovery systems (WWHRS) currently on the market which could be made from off-the-shelf components,” said Mr Baker.

“Using one of these systems to recover some of the energy used to heat shower water can help to reduce the amount of energy needed to bathe, which reduces the emissions released, but also fuel costs.”

Using the global energy crisis as an inspiration was a key reason why the judges chose this project as a winner. Mr Winward added, “Jack’s project offers the potential for millions of families to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water for their showers, which in turn will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

What did the judges have to say?

Mr Winward extended his thanks to the external judging panel, which included David Hurren, President of the British Compressed Gases Association, Mark Sommerfeld, deputy director of policy at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), and Thomas Minter, director at Malaby Biogas Ltd, Palisade Real Assets (UK) Ltd and BioticNRG Ltd.

David Hurren emphasised the merit of both Maryam and Jack’s projects.

“The standard of entries this year was again excellent which made choosing the winners very difficult, but the two winning projects stood out for their levels of enthusiasm, innovation and the real-world impact of their research,” said Mr Hurren.

Mark Sommerfield agreed, “The winning applications were the ones that we felt had the most immediately applicable and that could have the biggest impact, which addresses challenges that we feel that the industry should tackle.”