Kenyan renewable energy expert bags Steve Sawyer Memorial Award

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Steve Sawyer Memorial Award
Wangari Muchiri

In Brief: Steve Sawyer Memorial Award


  • The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), joined by Greenpeace and REN21, has announced the winner of the first edition of the “Revolutionaries: The Steve Sawyer Memorial Award,” which honours late GWEC CEO Steve Sawyer’s work scaling up renewable energy around the world
  • Wangari Muchiri, a renewable energy engineer and planning expert based in Kenya, will receive a comprehensive prize package which emphasises investment, study and thought leadership
  • The award ceremony will take place during the closing plenary of the 10th annual Windaba Conference on 26-27 October
  • GWEC, Greenpeace and REN21 are Founding Partners of the award programme, which aims to highlight clean energy pioneers in emerging markets in Africa, Latin America, and South East Asia

A Kenyan renewable energy engineer has scooped the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) award that seeks to honour its late CEO Steve Sawyer’s work of scaling up renewable energy around the world.

Wangari Muchiri, a renewable energy planning expert who specialises in technology innovation for off-grid and peri-urban communities, was selected as the inaugural winner by a Jury representing members of Steve’s family, GWEC, REN21 and Greenpeace.

Wangari was chosen from a competitive pool of applicants spanning public and private sector, civil society, and a range of renewable energy solutions, with the majority of applicants based in South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana.

Known as the “REvolutionaries” The Award was  launched in 2020 the  award also seeks to empower young innovators working at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia.

Ben Backwell, CEO of GWEC, said: “Throughout his career, Steve Sawyer was passionate about championing the work of young innovators to accelerate the clean energy revolution. With her outstanding profile, expertise, and passion for advancing the role of renewables in Africa, Wangari upholds the five key pillars of the award, which were themes of Steve’s work and mission: leadership, renewable energy, innovation, scalability, and diversity. On behalf of the Founding Partners of the award – GWEC, Greenpeace and REN21 – we are pleased to announce Wangari as the winner of this first edition, and excited to support her career development in clean energy.”

Wangari will receive the award during the 10th Annual Windaba Conference, which will take place virtually on 26-27 October 2020. She will receive a comprehensive prize package that emphasises investment, study, and thought leadership, including a monetary prize, a platform at a regional clean energy event, as well as other opportunities to promote her thought leadership to a global network of professionals in the global renewables industry.

Wangari sits on the Board of the Kenya Green Building Society, where she leads the technical committee overseeing sustainability practices in the real estate sector. In 2019 she was a Participant of the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program, jointly organised by GWEC and the Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET). The same year, she was selected as one of the Obama Leaders for Africa by the Obama Foundation, and listed as one of the Top 6 Women under 30 in STEM by the Mawazo Institute during Africa Science Week.

Wangari Muchiri, winner of the award, said: “I am deeply humbled and honoured to be selected as the recipient of the inaugural “REvolutionaries: The Steve Sawyer Memorial Award”. My dream is to see Africa become fully energy independent and leapfrog traditional energy sources to a sustainable, innovative, and renewable energy future. Through this platform, I hope to reflect some of Steve Sawyer’s leadership qualities and demonstrate that there are indeed innovative, scalable, diverse and technology savvy projects on the continent. Thank you to the distinguished judging panel, GWEC team, Greenpeace team and REN21 team for selecting me.”

Kelly Rigg, Steve Sawyer’s wife and Director of the Varda Group environmental consultancy, commented: “Steve would have been so pleased to see an award in his name be given to a woman with the kind of talent Wangari has demonstrated so early in her career. He would have especially loved that – like him – her passion for renewables is grounded in a strong technical background and understanding of how these technologies work in practice. While all the award finalists were impressive, the jury was unanimous in its opinion that she would be a powerful and effective ambassador for clean energy leadership in Africa. We look forward to watching her accomplishments in the years to come.”

The first edition of the award focused on clean energy leaders in Africa, with candidates working in or targeting their work in the public sector, private sector, or civil society in one or several countries. The annual award will have a different regional focus for each program cycle. The award was determined by a Jury focusing on five key criteria: leadership, renewable energy, innovation, scalability, and diversity.

Following a distinguished career in environmental and climate activism at Greenpeace International, Steve became GWEC’s first Secretary General in 2007. During Steve’s tenure at the head of GWEC, global wind installations grew from 74GW to 539GW and became one of the world’s most important energy sources. He contributed significantly to the development of the wind industry in places such as India, China, Brazil and South Africa.

He later became a Senior Policy Advisor to GWEC. Steve passed away in July 2019.

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