ABOUT NANCY WIMMER GineersNow: Introduce yourself. How many years have you been working in your industry? Nancy Wimmer: I am an American, grew up and studied in the United States and came to Europe to study at the Universities of Hamburg and Munich; I hold a Masters in Philosophy from the Munich School of Philosophy. My professional work began with teaching at the University of the Military and serving German industry as a systems analyst. I now live with my family near Munich where I run the renewable energy research company, microSOLAR. Based on my 20 years of experience in developing countries, I recently authored the book, Green Energy for a Billion Poor describing the amazing growth of the solar market in rural Bangladesh.
ABOUT MICROSOLAR GN: Are you an educational institution, social enterprise, non-profit or private company? Describe your company, how big it is and where is this company headed? Nancy Wimmer: MicroSOLAR is a private company which works closely with a network of renewable energy entrepreneurs and experts in Europe, Asia and Africa. This is essential. You can’t advise social investors – nor can you research and promote innovative business models for rural business from your desk. Rural business is still little understood and not simply ‘out there’ because millions of villagers in developing countries are in need of electricity. This I learned from my work with microfinance and rural businesses in Egypt, El Salvador, India, Honduras, Nepal and Peru. Green Energy for a Billion Poor is the outcome of my 15 years of travelling the villages with young engineers in Bangladesh.
CLEAN ENERGY ACCORDING TO MICROSOLAR GN: What is clean energy as defined by your company? Nancy: Clean energy is energy from renewable energy sources. MicroSOLAR experience is with solar, wind, geothermal water in European communities and solar home systems in developing countries. My extensive experience in India and Bangladesh convinced me that solar home systems are presently the superior sources of electricity for off-grid villages. But only if they are affordable, good quality and regularly serviced, which brings us back to the importance of understanding rural business. Some 5 million solar home systems have been installed in Bangladesh alone, making a least developed country the largest off-grid solar market in the world. GN: Why bother? What’s the importance of pursuing clean energy? Nancy: Why bother? Clean energy is energy that doesn’t pollute the atmosphere. Respiratory diseases caused by inhaling smoke and kerosene fumes are rampant in developing countries. Children can’t study at night because the light from kerosene lamps is poor and the fumes toxic. Their parents can’t work after dusk, small businesses like saw mills shut down and poor people can’t earn. Moreover, kerosene is more expensive in rural areas and dangerous to transport. Bangladesh has no oil reserves. Kerosene is imported, solar energy is ‘made in Bangladesh’. When the solar lamp is switched on for the first time in a village household, people marvel at clean, white light without smoke.
ISSUE NO.004 RENEWABLE ENERGY