KTS-Fellow 2020

Micro-financing Clean Energy: Start-up Founder Named Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2020

Micro-financing is an important tool to advance the growth and reach of modern energy systems in developing countries. With her start-up HEDERA Sustainable Solutions GmbH, engineer Natalia Realpe Carrillo has created a digital toolbox that enables micro-finance institutions to take stock of the sustainability impacts of their investments in clean energy systems. She has joined the IASS as the new Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow on 1 November 2020, where she will continue to develop and improve these tools.

Micro-finance can help to reduce poverty. Yet until now lenders have often only been able to guess at the actual impact of their investments on sustainability. Many smaller micro-finance institutions simply cannot afford to commission external researchers with collecting and evaluating the data needed to understand the impacts of their investments. And this is where HEDERA can help. “The infrastructure for banks to collect data using digital questionnaires is readily available. Despite this, few local banks rise to the challenge. This is partly due to digital deficits in developing countries and often to a lack of technical understanding,” explains Realpe. HEDERA’s products help micro-finance institutions to understand the impacts of their loans. Tailored to the needs of their users, the tools developed by the start-up are easy to use.

Natalia Realpe Carrillo grew up in Colombia, where she studied industrial engineering at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá. She moved to Berlin in 2007 to take a master’s degree at TU Berlin and went on to write her doctoral thesis on the role of the micro-finance sector in improving access to energy. For almost a decade, she worked as a project manager for a company that promotes the growth of affordable, climate-friendly energy solutions in developing countries. In 2018 she co-founded the start-up HEDERA, which was awarded an EXIST business grant from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).