For more than 40 years, Dan Waddle’s professional focus and personal passion has been to support rural communities to improve living conditions and stimulate income growth by supporting community-owned, affordable, and sustainable energy solutions. Understanding the power of the cooperative business model in developing countries, Dan has drawn on his academic background and experience to evaluate the viability of rural utilities, to contribute to design of infrastructure, and to train community members to form and operate cooperative electric utilities. These rural enterprises are designed to provide power for irrigation, dairy and grain processing, water supply, as well as health, education, and public security.
Early in his academic career, Dan was drawn to understand engineering applications in agricultural production and biomass energy conversion processes. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in agricultural engineering at Virginia Tech and later, a Doctor of Engineering degree at Texas A&M University, all focused on developing advanced engineering skills in small-scale power generation. This academic focus proved extremely useful later when he began to work in developing economies where the majority of energy use is derived from agricultural waste and byproducts.
After working in agricultural extension at the conclusion of his M.S. degree, Dan had his first opportunity to work overseas. He was hired on his first international professional assignment in 1980 by Virginia Tech as a Research Associate and Lecturer at Egerton College in Njoro, Kenya where he taught engineering to agricultural extension specialists. At the completion of this assignment, he accepted a project management position for a USAID-financed project in the Philippines in 1983 that gave him his first taste of designing and implementing sustainable electrification solutions for remote communities using renewable energy solutions. After completing his doctorate degree at Texas A&M in 1987, he accepted a position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he managed a series of renewable energy electrification projects in Latin America and Southeast Asia. It was during these years that Dan encountered the power of the cooperative business model through a series of projects in Bolivia and Costa Rica, leading to his work at NRECA International.
Dan joined NRECA International in 1991 after completing the design of a new electrification program for NRECA in Bolivia, where he led a team of NRECA electrification specialists. The experience of working with the cooperative leaders in Bolivia was eye-opening; seeing the unique role that cooperatives can play with local agricultural and commercial enterprises, the collaboration with health and educational institutions, and the dedication to improving the quality of life of members brought a realization of how cooperatives are uniquely positioned to serve communities like no other business model. In the intervening years, Dan has led many electrification projects and programs all of which have focused on building improved energy services to support quality of life and income generation in rural communities. In his present role as Senior Vice President of NRECA International, he not only leads NRECA contributions to global electrification expansion, but continues to lead projects in Latin America, Africa, and Asia with his trusted colleagues.
Under Dan’s leadership, NRECA International has implemented successful, sustainable, scalable rural electrification programs that improve education, health care, safety, and economic opportunities in communities across the world. These cooperative ventures provide electric power to support agriculture, small and medium community enterprises, improved lighting and telecommunications for schools and health facilities, and for other public facilities including security lighting in village streets and common areas. Working with collaborating partners at federal, state and local levels in multiple countries that include Bangladesh, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Uganda, Yemen, South Sudan, Colombia, and many others, Dan and his colleagues have steadfastly focused on the needs of beneficiary communities by introducing the benefits and fruits of the cooperative model as a means of organizing and sustaining electric service to support community growth and well-being.
Dan’s effective leadership comes from a commitment to listening to consumers, understanding local economic conditions and “building human capacity.” By focusing on supporting local community self-determination and trusting in the capacity of each community to understand its needs, Dan has focused his knowledge and skills to support poverty reduction through creation of vibrant and sustaining power solutions to meet all energy needs of client communities.