Practical Action Consulting is working with GVEP, Chatham House, UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugee Council on the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI), an innovative project that seeks to meet the energy needs of displaced people in a safe, sustainable manner, developing solutions for heating/cooling, cooking, lighting, electrification and water and sanitation.

Displaced people are energy poor:

  • Over 89% of people living in camps have no access to electricity and 80% rely on firewood for cooking.
  • 61% of households in Dadaab in Kenya, the world’s largest refugee settlement, rely on no more than a torch for lighting.
  • Households in the Goudoubo camp in Burkina Faso need over 100 kilos of firewood per month for cooking alone. They receive only 12 and must buy or gather the rest.

The cost of energy is high for displaced people:

  • The average displaced household will spend at least $200 per year on fuel, which amounts to $2.1 billion each year worldwide.
  • Households in Dadaabspend 24% of their overall household income on firewood, or $6.2 million, each year. In 2011 UK households spent 4% of their income on energy.
  • In 2014-15, the electricity bill to the UNHCR for the Zaatari camp in Jordan was $8.7 million, which led the agency to cut improvised connections for refugee households and businesses.

The health and safety toll is alarmingly high:

  • Each year it is likely that some 20,000 displaced people die prematurely due to the pollution from indoor fires for cooking.
  • In Uganda, 44% of refugee households admitted to skipping meals because they did not have enough fuel to cook with.

Sustainable solutions are within reach:

  • Using the best available green technologies for households could save lives, reduce CO2 emissions by11.38 million tons per year and radically improve living standards.

Heat, Light and Power for Refugees: Saving Lives, Reducing Costs

Heat, Light and Power for Refugees: Saving Lives, Reducing Costs calls for an overhaul in the way energy is supplied and used in situations of forced displacement.

This is the first report of the Moving Energy Initiative, a collaboration between Chatham House and a number of humanitarian organisations, including Practical Action, DFID and the UNHCR.

Heat, Light and Power for Refugees: Saving Lives, Reducing Costs

In its first phase the Moving Energy Initiative set out to raise the level of knowledge about the current energy situation in contexts of displacement globally through desk and field research. This has culminated in the publication of a global level report from Chatham House, Heat, Light and Power for Refugees: Saving Lives, Reducing Costs, which assess the extent of the problem and identifies challenges and potential solutions.

Chatham House Report for the Moving Energy Initiative: Executive Summary

Executive summary of the global level report from Chatham House for the Moving Energy Initiative, Heat, Light and Power for Refugees: Saving Lives, Reducing Costs, which assess the extent of the problem and identifies challenges and potential solutions.

The Rationale

There is limited policy and practice on sustainable and clean energy provision within the humanitarian community. This means that the energy needs of millions of displaced people are being met inadequately and inefficiently, and not through the most effective or carbon-efficient interventions.

Interventions are often ad-hoc, and have mainly focused on the distribution of clean cookstoves, solar lanterns and solar street lights. These interventions have given little consideration to the context of the displaced communities, often overlooking their cultural traditions, and collective capacities and needs as well as technological availability.

The Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) will emphasize the relevance of local realities, and integrate them with global technological advancements, through the development of research, evidence-building and pilot projects relating to sustainable energy solutions.

The MEI seeks to meet the energy needs of displaced people in a safe, sustainable manner, developing solutions for heating/cooling, cooking, lighting, electrification and water and sanitation. To this end, it will work to reform the relevant humanitarian policies and practices that affect energy provision and engage and enable the private sector in this area. The work will also give special attention to the needs of women and girls in terms of health, safety and empowerment.
 

Refugee camps lack access to energy

Access to modern energy is a basic human need, but for camp inhabitants access to safe, secure and reliable energy is often inadequate. Furthermore, camp inhabitants overwhelmingly use traditional biomass (primarily firewood) and kerosene to cover their basic energy needs and this is unsafe, unhealthy and inefficient.

The Case

Sustainable energy solutions generate many benefits for camp inhabitants, hosts, camp operators, and for the environment.

Cut costs

Providing charcoal and running the diesel generators that often underpin the fuel needs of refugee camps is expensive. Significant costs are also expended to transport fuel to the remote locations in which camps are based. As a point of reference, a study for the US Army estimated that for every litre of fuel used in remote bases, six litres were expended to transport it. Results are likely to be similar in refugee camps. (USAEPI, 2006)

Release untapped potential

Sustainable energy initiatives can deliver benefits to refugee populations, enhancing safety, security, health and livelihoods. Reducing the time and distance that refugees travel to collect firewood frees additional time for livelihood activities, particularly among women and girls. A change of approach can transform the mindset about how camp residents are perceived – from ‘beneficiaries’ dependent on handouts – to agents able to choose, produce, consume and take part in the running of their own communities.
 

Reduce emissions

Current energy practices in refugee camps are often dirty, polluting and damaging to the surrounding environment. Huge emissions savings are possible through small changes, and fundamental reform of the energy environment in camps can unlock a range of additional environmental benefits.

The Benefits of the Moving Energy Initiative

Benefits cited from access to sustainable energy

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Moving Energy Initiative

The Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) seeks to meet the energy needs of displaced people in a safe, sustainable manner, developing solutions for heating/cooling, cooking, lighting, electrification and water and sanitation.

The Energy Situation in Goudoubo Refugee Camp, Burkino Faso

Goudoubo refugee camp hosts over 10,000 refugees. It grew out of political and military unrest that began in Mali in January 2012 and led to a mass exodus of civilians into Burkina Faso. It is situated a few kilometres northwest of the town of Dori, the capital of the Sahel Region. The sudden arrival and settlement of a large number of people has put additional pressure on already limited natural resources in the area, with corresponding negative social, economic and cultural impacts on the local population., This paper, one of a series developed by the MEI consortium partners, has been written and edited by Practical Action Consulting, with copy-editing and production support from Chatham House. Its purpose is to present the results from a field study carried out in 2015 on the energy situation in the Goudoubo refugee camp in Burkina Faso. The paper is a summary of the survey report.

A Review of Cooking Systems for Humanitarian Settings

Moving Energy Initiative Report offers guidance on the design and implementation of improved cooking systems in displacement situations. It is aimed at decision-makers at the policy level who identify priority needs and develop humanitarian budgets, and should be read in conjunction with other publications in the MEI series., This paper is one of a series of ‘toolkits’ developed by the MEI partners. It has been written by Practical Action Consulting, with copy-editing and production support from Chatham House, to offer guidance on the design and implementation of improved cooking systems in displacement situations. It is aimed at decision-makers at the policy level who identify priority needs and develop humanitarian budgets, and should be read in conjunction with other publications in the MEI series.

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