Volunteer Testimonial: Nirupama Prakash Kumar

Niru_PictureRead about Niru’s experience as a volunteer with IEEE Smart Village as written in her owns words.

As I was finishing my MBA in the summer of 2013, I realized that my true interests were in renewable energy and social enterprise. However, I didn’t know how to marry the two interests. That is when I came across IEEE Smart Village (IEEE SV then Community Solutions Initiative). It was a perfect marriage of my two passionate interests and that is when I decided to volunteer for it.

My journey with IEEE SV began when Mike Wilson gave me the assignment of scanning all the Portable Battery Kit (PBK) manufactures in the world and coming up with not only a list of PBKs that would suit the IEEE SV SunBlazer product, but also requesting the manufacturers to send sample products to us. I ended up contacting more than 75 PBK manufacturers and more than two dozen of them sent me their PBK samples from around the world. Talking to so many manufacturers who were also deploying rural electrification solutions around the world changed me somewhere completely. I saw my world and my 24 hours of electricity based existence very different from then on.

GHTC 2013I was soon invited to come to GHTC 2013 in San Jose, California, to meet the whole team and I have never looked back since.

In February of 2014, an opportunity came to talk at a conference in Harvard University’s business school. The chairs of IEEE SV, Ray Larsen and Robin Podmore and the Sr. Program Manager Mike Wilson asked me to represent the program and also gave me the title of an ‘Ambassador’ of the program, a title I have cherished since. Later that year I attended a UN conference on Gender and Energy Access as an Ambassador for IEEE SV. I had started some initial research and work on IEEE SV entering India, but soon got a full time job in Nextera Energy. A full time job did not stop me from participating in IEEE SV though. I continued to work with IEEE SV in different formats – helping our Zambia partner with initial business plan work, talking at the IEEE SV workshop at GHTC 2014 etc. Then in October 2014, Robin asked me to conduct my own panel on Sustainable Microgrids at the Intellect 2015 conference in Mumbai, India. The panel had some really young speakers and was a big success. Later in 2015, I conducted the very first IEEE SV Ambassador workshop in Denver, CO, an event part of the larger IEEE SV program at the 2015 IEEE PES General Meeting. In September 2015, I spoke at a conference in Bangalore, India.

At work I was given a ‘Volunteer Spotlight’ on our website for my work with IEEE SV. This led to a lot of enquiries about the program from my colleagues. The enquiries grew to such an exciting level that we now have a whole dedicated group of volunteers for IEEE SV projects here in NextEra. The group is starting some very exciting work and I can’t wait to see it grow more.

About my journey with IEEE SV, which started 2.5 years ago, I can only say that it is one I see continuing for a long time, till we reach the goal set out by the mission of electrifying 50 million people in the next 10 years and beyond that. I have also gained so much from this experience – so many contacts, so much exposure and many many friends. As I have always said – by giving my time and effort to IEEE Smart Village, I have always gained more than I have ever given.