Borja Olaso ’12

Borja Olaso ’12 worked in the New York office to help E+Co assess the feasibility of their first grid connected PV Solar Plant, a breakthrough that is a potential foundational step for the organization to develop a broader renewable energy focus in the region. E+Co is a nonprofit that makes clean energy investments in developing nations. E+Co’s mission is to find outstanding entrepreneurs and work with them to establish clean energy businesses that mitigate climate change and reduce poverty while generating financial returns.

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My Experience

This summer I worked on analyzing the feasibility of a Solar PV project connected to the grid in the underdeveloped Tanzanian and Ghanaian power markets. E+Co “empowers clean energy entrepreneurs in developing countries to bring sustainable, clean and affordable energy solutions to households and communities, positively impacting their quality of life and our planet.” Doing the analysis for this project prepared E+Co directors for meetings with high officials in the Ghanaian and Tanzanian government, and to make a decision on which direction to take in a highly developing industry and one that is extremely needed (in Tanzania only 24% of the population have access to electricity, and 80% of those are in urban areas). This project, together with the off-grid opportunities in both countries, may become the main focus of their power sector investment.

I applied the skillsets from the MBA program primarily through research and using the skills learned in courses such as Carbon Finance and Financing Energy Markets. Having spent time learning extensively about the power market proved very useful. A large part of the work entailed understanding the real needs of people who are thousands of miles away, and as well as what the resources available are. The MBA skills, combined with what I was learning day to day at E+Co, made it possible to better analyze the project feasibility by taking into account the impact and profitability of the project.

There were, however, several challenges. The first challenge was finding information that wasn’t outdated or incomplete about the power markets in Ghana and Tanzania. Secondly, while it was very interesting, it was difficult to understand the needs and means of Ghana and Tanzania’s power markets. Finally, combining economic and social impact was the most compelling aspect of my internship and definitely the best learning opportunity I received.

My main takeaway from this experience is that there are plenty more opportunities to put the skills learned at CBS to use than just conventional careers. There are far more interesting matters that require our attention (at least from my point of view). E+Co was especially interesting because it is a very small but incredibly dynamic group of professionals.

The thing that struck me, and I especially liked about E+Co, is that they actually do things. One example is that once I completed done my research on Ghana, Chris, one of the partners, actually took a trip to Ghana to discuss opportunities with the officials there. Listening to the conference calls after the meetings, in which my findings had been put into discussion and where actual investments were discussed, was very special. Additionally, I felt that at E+Co they really wanted me to get involved; I was copied on every email, which made me feel part of something big.

As I mentioned earlier, the importance of finding the right mix of economic and social impact together with profitability and sustainability was the main takeaway I got.

One of my goals could be working for a company like E+Co. First, that would mean E+Co is making investments that are actually doing well enough to hire people. I feel a passion for what the organization does, development with sustainability. The team is unbeatable, the professionals are top notch, and the ambience is especially good thanks to people like Bruce Usher, Chris Aidun or Dirk Muench.

Thank you for this amazing experience.