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Clean-energy ventures dominate 2008 Global Social Venture Competition

| 08 May 2008

A plan to make clean energy affordable around the world to poor, rural households without access to electricity won the grand prize in the 2008 Global Social Venture Competition organized by the Haas School of Business.

The winning team, MicroEnergy Credits Corp. from Columbia University’s business school, received the $25,000 cash prize at an awards ceremony April 18.

The MicroEnergy plan is to tap the $30 billion carbon-emissions cap-and-trade market to make energy-efficient resources such as solar-electric lighting, efficient cookstoves, and local biogas cooking fuel accessible and affordable to poor households. To make these investments possible, the team is working with existing microfinance institutions already operating in rural communities lacking electricity.

Founded by Berkeley MBA students in 1999, the Global Social Venture Competition promotes the creation and growth of new ventures that have business plans with financial and social goals as key elements. Each competing team must have at least one MBA student from an accredited business school on its management team.

The competition now counts Columbia Business School, London Business School, Indian School of Business, and Yale School of Management as partners. This year, Thammasat University in Thailand and ESSEC Business School in France joined the University of Geneva and a consortium of business schools in Korea as outreach partners.

All three of this year’s winners are promoting clean-energy concepts. The second-place award, along with a $10,000 cash prize, went to Bio Power Technology, which uses agricultural waste to create electricity. The team comes from Prasetiya Mulya Business School in Indonesia.

BioVolt, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, won third place and a $5,000 cash prize. It has developed a microbial fuel cell to bring low-cost, clean, renewable-energy generation to off-grid rural customers worldwide.

The Social Impact Assessment prize of $5,000 went to SMART, short for Sustainable Marine Adventures and Responsible Tourism. The team from Thailand’s Thammasat University was recognized for presenting the most innovative and rigorous analysis of its venture’s potential social and/or environmental impacts.

This year’s Global Social Venture Competition drew entries for the preliminary round from a record 245 teams from 23 countries, up from 160 team entries last year. The 10 finalist teams selected at the semi-finals, held at the regional partner schools, met at Berkeley in February and March for a final-round business-plan evaluation by judges from the fields of social investment, philanthropy, venture capital, design, academia, and corporate social responsibility.

Sponsors included Omidyar Network, which gave a $300,000 gift last year to support the competition for three years, as well as the Goldman Sachs Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, and Morrison & Foerster LLP.

For more information, visit www.gsvc.org.