Energy for a Developing World
Education Excerpt 1:56 min
Energy for a Developing World
PDF Documentation

Since 1976, Muhammad Yunus has been dedicated to fighting poverty and empowering women in Bangladesh and the world over. After earning his Ph.D. in Economics from Vanderbilt University in 1969 and working for a few years in the United States, he returned to Bangladesh to accept a chair in economics at the University of Chittagong in 1972. He was shocked by the poverty and famine in his home country and decided that economic theories alone were not going to pull the people of Bangladesh out of poverty. But what would?

Yunus recognized that because many people were too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans, they were not being given the opportunity to improve their own economic situation. He decided that he would give them that opportunity, and in doing so invented the concept of micro-credit. He started by giving a small loan of $27 to a group of craftsmen to help them grow their business. After several years, several more loans and a near-perfect repayment rate, he decided to formalize the process and founded Grameen Bank in 1983. Since then, micro-credit has spread to several countries and has helped countless people emerge from desperate poverty. Not only has he created a bank that is self-financing, profitable and popular, with almost 7 million borrowers, but over 95 percent of those borrowers are women. In this way, he has empowered women to start their own businesses in countries with traditionally repressive social and economic conditions for women. 

In 2006, Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work with grassroots economic and social development. But Muhammad Yunus did not stop with micro-credit. He has since recognized the importance of energy as a factor in economic growth for the poor people of Bangladesh. With over 100 million people without access to electricity, rural Bangladeshis are literally energy-starved. The few who do have access to energy use kupi or hurricane lamps fueled by kerosene, the fumes from which create significant health hazards. In 1996 Yunus started Grameen Shakti, a not-for-profit company, to promote, develop and popularize renewable energy technologies in remote areas of Bangladesh. By focusing on solar, biogas and other forms of renewable energy, Grameen Shakti sees a future where rural households will have access to reliable, environmentally friendly energy at affordable costs.

Muhammad Yunus' long-term vision is to eliminate poverty in the world. Whether it's through micro-credit or renewable energy, he continues to find new ways to empower poor people, giving them the opportunities they need to improve their lives.


1. What is micro-credit? What are the benefits and challenges?

2. How is the importance of energy a factor in economic growth?

3. What are some renewable, alternative forms of energy to create electricity and heat?

Link to resources to conduct research on these topics.


1. What is the problem with using kerosene to fuel lamps? What are the alternatives for Bangladeshis?

2. How did access to renewable energy help the economic growth of poorer communities in Bangladesh?

3. The United Nations stated that sustainable development "implies meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Given this definition, do you think the programs of Grameen Bank and Grameen Shakti (the non-profit organization) are promoting sustainable development? Why or why not? Use specific examples.



Engineering Education
Standard 5.6: Knows renewable and non-renewable sources of energy (e.g., fossil, wind, nuclear, solar)

Standard 5.8: Understands how the use of domestic and commercial power and energy affects the environment

Standard 17.6: Understands tradeoffs among characteristics such as safety, function, cost, ease of operation, quality of post-purchase support, and environmental impact when selecting systems for specific purposes


Standard 3.2: Knows ways in which social and economic forces influence which technologies will be developed and used (e.g., cultural and personal values, consumer acceptance, patent laws, availability of risk capital, the federal budget, local and national regulations, media attention, economic competition, tax incentives)

Standard 3.3: Knows that alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits must be considered when deciding on proposals to introduce new technologies or to curtail existing ones (e.g., Are there alternative ways to achieve the same ends? Who benefits and who suffers? What are the financial and social costs and who bears them? How serious are the risks and who is in jeopardy? What resources will be needed and where will they come from?)

Energy for a Developing World

Education Excerpt 1:56 min

Energy for a Developing World
PDF Documentation