28 April 2020
  • energy transition
  • development
  • environment peacebuilding

Sustainable energy to improve human security in refugee settlements

According to the UNHCR’s latest Global Trends Report, there are currently 70.8 million displaced people. Most refugees and displaced persons depend on unsustainable energy resources that pose risks to their security and health. It is suggested that access to clean and sustainable energy can deliver quick returns in humanitarian settings and improve human security. 

On 28 April, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) organised a webinar on renewable energy solutions for refugee settlements. IRENA, an intergovernmental organisation supporting countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, state renewables play a central role in ensuring affordable, reliable and climate-safe access to modern energy services. They conducted, in collaboration with the UNHCR, four case studies in settlements in Ethiopia and Iraq.

Key findings include:

  1. The energy situation for refugees reflects the development of the host community
  2. Brownouts and blackouts lead to an over-reliance on expensive backup Diesel generators in Iraq
  3. The lack of access to energy for cooking for refugees poses a risk for conflict with host communities in Ethiopia
  4. Large potential benefits arise from increasing the use of renewable energy in refugee settings
  5. The lack of data limits the efficiency of electricity supply and is a barrier for moving to renewable.

In Ethiopia, most refugees lack reliable access to electric lighting at all, while in Iraq, blackouts and brownouts remain frequent, even in grid-connected settlements. As a consequence, refugees and humanitarian workers depend on costly,  polluting diesel generators. Solar mini-grids, for instance, can enhance the efficiency of humanitarian operations, reduce the costs of diesel consumption, and support first-time refugees with immediate, reliable electricity access. Other suggested solutions include solar lighting kits and solar water pumps.

Read more on avenues to replicate renewable energy solutions and business models to increase the uptake of renewables in this report by IRENA and UNHCR


Photocredit: Magharebia/ Flickr