Preben Maegaard is a pioneer in the field of renewable energy. His involvement dates back to the 1970s, when, in the aftermath of the first great oil shortage, it became apparent that the industrialized world, addicted to finite energy fuels, would one day suffer the crisis of withdrawal. In 1991 Preben became vice-president of EUROSOLAR, and in 2001, president of the World Wind Energy Association. Since 1983 he has been the director of the Nordic Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, an independent, nonprofit research and training institute working to increase the utilization of renewable resource technologies in Denmark and beyond. In Preben’s home region – where windmills provide a steady windfall source of income for local farmers and cooperatives – renewable energy has supplied 100 percent of the power needs since 1992. Maegaard’s ultimate goal: 100 percent renewable energy usage around the globe.
“The challenge for our generation is to develop the necessary technologies and human skills to bring this abundance of clean energy into the service of humankind.”
Preben Maegaard realizes that the natural potential of available renewable energies on any given day dwarfs the total worldwide output of atomic energy derived since 27 June 1954 when the first commercial nuclear power plant went online at Obninsk. Overhead, some 149,597,870 safe kilometers away, the great nuclear reactor in the sky donates daily more than 15,000 times the amount of energy we require. But to harness renewable fuels will take a flip of mindset as massive as the Polish astronomer Copernicus provoked by observing that the earth revolves around the sun, and not vice versa. There simply exists too much power grid gridlock among the powers that be. Preben points out, “The cost of renewable energy is generally higher than the production cost of conventional energy sources because the overwhelming share of the external costs associated with electricity from conventional energy sources is not reflected in the price; instead, these costs are borne by the general public and by future generations.” He adds, “The challenge for our generation is to develop the necessary technologies and human skills to bring this abundance of clean energy into the service of humankind.”
One of Preben’s central concerns is the unacceptable fact that a third of the world’s population has no access to modern energy. Half the people around the globe have never even made a single phone call. A successful spin-off of his Folkecenter in Denmark is the Mali Folkecenter in Bamako. Rural solar and wind off-grid energy solutions ensure development, while at the same time empowering people by transforming prospects. “Therefore,” the man with the white mane tells us, “access to renewable energy should be treated as a fundamental right for everybody.”