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The Global Energy Prize annually honors outstanding achievements in energy research and technology from around the world that are helping address the world’s various and pressing energy challenges.

The 2017 Global Energy Prize: international award for low-cost and efficient solar cells

Today one of the most important events in the energy field was held in Moscow. The name of the Global Energy Prize laureate was announced during the international press conference. In 2017 the prestigious award goes to Michael Graetzel (Switzerland) “for transcendent merits in development of low cost and efficient solar cells, known as “Graetzel cells”, aimed to creation of cost-efficient, large-scale engineering solutions for power generation”.  He will receive a golden medal and RUB 39 million (approximately $ 693 000).

The laureate of 2017 was determined on April 4 at the Global Energy Prize International Award Committee meeting but the information remained a secret until the last moment. Famous British scientist, the Nobel Prize winner Rodney John Allam, chairs the Committee. During the press conference, he announced the shortlist of nominees for the Global Energy Prize. This time it included 10 scientists from Australia, Britain, Germany, Spain, Russia and the United States. Rodney John Allam noted that “the winner of the XV nomination cycle was selected from 186 nominees who represent 31 countries. The right to nominate for the award belongs to 3000 experts from 90 countries (which is ten times more than their initial number in 2003). The number of applications submitted yearly for the award has grown as well: up to 6 times since its inception.”

Adding details about the award, the Global Energy Prize International Award Committee member, the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Adnan Amin stressed that Michael Graetzel`s developments attest to the global push towards a sustainable future for humanity and that “the Global Energy Prize shows the spirit of cooperation that IRENA has heralded and championed since its inception.” Moreover, he said: “This year is of particular importance because the majority of nominations submitted for the Global Energy Prize (32,36%) come from the field of renewable energy. In my view, this confirms what we have been witnessing in recent years – the global transition is well underway, and an increasing number of the world’s best minds are at work to ensure its success.”

Recall that every year the International Award Committee can choose up to three laureates. This year, the Global Energy Prize acknowledges the developer of the so-called “Graetzel cells” operating initially on the organic dye on the principles partially similar to biochemical one and used by plants for light energy conversion. The work of such photocell is usually compared to photosynthesis: in both cases redox reactions take place in electrolyte. Such photosensitive cells represent profitable alternative to expensive and sophisticated technologies of photovoltaic silicon-based batteries. Commercial manufacturing of such cells was started just in 2009. At the initial stage, they possessed poor efficiency performances of 3-8% and poor stability. During 20 years researchers headed by Graetzel and many other groups worked to improve the efficiency, and using new materials, perovskites in particular, they have succeeded in passing the way from 9.7% to 22.1%.

The clear advantage of the Graetzel cell-based batteries is their convenience for consumer – they could be made flexible and in various colors. It is convenient for use and power generation, for instance, in various structural elements of buildings. It is possible to create structurally transparent cells able to generate electric power within various bands of light frequencies, up to infrared one. It means that, in particular, they could be embedded into window glasses resulting in double effect for premises cooling and associated electric power generation.

The developer of this technology, Michael Graetzel, learned about his victory right during the press conference by a phone call, which was broadcast to the entire audience. Commenting on the award of the Global Energy Prize, he said: “Thank you very much for such joyful news! This is a big surprise for me, and it is a great honor, because so many scientists from all over the world competed the award”.

In addition, the official representative of FGS UES - member of the Global Energy Association also participated in the press conference. During his speech he marked that Russian and international R&D cooperation has great practical application for the company.

The solemn Global Energy Prize award ceremony will be traditionally held in the framework of Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). The Prize is to be awarded by the President of the Russian Federation or by an authorized person on his behalf.

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