August 30, 2010 (PLAYA VISTA, CA) – The X PRIZE Foundation, an educational non-profit that designs and administers competitions with prizes of up to $30 million, the Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi have formed a partnership to create a global competition to develop and deploy clean and efficient cookstoves. The competition will focus on the development of affordable and clean-burning cookstove technologies (and possibly delivery models) and is a part of the MNRE’s National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative, which was launched in December 2009. Details of the competition, including the announcement of the launch date, prize purse and competition guidelines are forthcoming.

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that indoor air pollution was responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide in the year 2000, making it the second largest environmental contributor to ill health, behind unsafe water and sanitation. Additionally, the study found that when households are filled with smoke from inefficient stoves, exposure to these emissions increase the risks of developing pneumonia, cataracts, and tuberculosis. Furthermore, cookstoves generate products of incomplete combustion that are contributors to climate change.

Approximately 70% of Indian households — more than 160 million households, comprising about 770 million people – are estimated to depend on simple but polluting cookstoves that burn solid fuel, mainly wood or coal. It also is estimated that approximately 400,000 to 550,000 people – primarily women and children – die of the resulting indoor air pollution each year in the country. This makes the cookstoves problem in India and the potential market for cleaner cookstoves amongst the largest in the world.

The cookstoves competition falls under the X PRIZE Foundation’s Education & Global Development prize group, which tackles major challenges in areas such as learning, hunger, health and water. Addressing the grand challenges of our time, the X PRIZE Foundation generates innovation through incentivized competition. Through the strategic design of ground-breaking competitions with significant, multi-million dollar prize purses, X PRIZE spurs collaboration among the world’s most brilliant minds to tackle the most pressing issues and create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.

The competition is also an integral part of the MNRE’s National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative, which was launched in December 2009 after extensive deliberations and input from a range of domestic and international experts. The Initiative builds upon an earlier program that disseminated 35 million cookstoves. The National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative aims to develop next-generation cookstoves; establish state-of-the-art testing, certification and monitoring facilities; strengthen research and development programs in key technical institutions; and create and implement innovative large-scale delivery models. All of these activities are to be assessed by an independent monitoring unit, and implemented through public-private partnerships.

MNRE believes that the technologies and delivery models that will be developed through this Initiative will be useful in India as well as in other developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America whose populations also suffer from health and other problems related to biomass use in household cooking. The cleaner combustion in the contemplated devices will also greatly reduce the products of incomplete combustion, which are greenhouse pollutants, thus helping combat climate change. Therefore, the success of the Initiative and the prize competition could well have a transformative impact for the energy poor in developing countries around the world while also helping tackle the important problem of climate change.

About the X PRIZE Foundation

The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit prize institute whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. In 2004, the Foundation captured world headlines when Burt Rutan, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, built and flew the world’s first private vehicle to space to win the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The Foundation has since launched the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. The Foundation is creating and conducting competitions in four prize groups: Exploration (Space and Oceans), Life Sciences, Energy and Environment, Education and Global Development. The Foundation is widely recognized as the leader in fostering innovation through competition.

About the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is the nodal Ministry of the Government of India at the Federal level for all matters relating to new and renewable energy. The Ministry has been facilitating the implementation of a broad spectrum of programs including harnessing renewable power, providing renewable energy to rural areas for lighting, cooking and motive power, using renewable energy in urban, industrial and commercial applications, and developing alternate fuels and applications. In addition, it supports the research, design and development of new and renewable energy technologies, products and services. In recent past, MNRE has undertaken many new initiatives for mainstreaming renewable energy in the national energy mix.

About the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi

The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) is one of the fifteen national Institutes of Technology created as centers of excellence in India for training, research, and development in science, engineering, and technology. The IITs have been designated as Institutes of National Importance by the Parliament of India. IITD, one of the five original IITs, was founded in 1961, and soon thereafter designated as an IIT. It is consistently ranked as one of India’s top science and engineering educational institutions – its faculty members have won national and international recognition and its graduates have become leaders in both scholarship and practice in science, engineering, economics, finance, business management, and entrepreneurship across the world.

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