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Displaced families say ‘We’ll pay for power’


Thousands of refugee families want to pay for better energy supplies so they can take control of their lives, according to a new report.

Researchers from the Moving Energy Initiative found that there is a huge demand in refugee camps around the world for modern renewable electrical supplies and cleaner cooking solutions.

The report also highlighted the fragmented and inefficient response to energy provision for displaced people amongst humanitarian organizations.

The report authors found that better, and more co-ordinated, access to renewable energy could save thousands of refugee families thousands of pounds every year, kick-starting economic activity and transforming camp culture away from one of dependency.

There is clear dissatisfaction on the part of refugees, camp administrators and humanitarian workers with the current level of energy provision in the camps and a corresponding demand for change,

said report author Mattia Vianello. 

As the number of displaced people in the world increases, and as aid budgets come under further pressure, the imperative to identify cost-effective and sustainable solutions for delivering energy to refugees is more pressing than ever.

The report, Price, Products, Priorities: Meeting Refugee Energy Needs in Burkina Faso and Kenya explores the issues of energy and displacement in detail. Drawing on insights from refugees in Goudoubo camp in Burkina Faso and Kakuma camp in Kenya, it seeks to promote a better understanding of their energy needs, priorities and preferences and assesses how increased access to energy might help to achieve lasting impact - and at what cost.
The report’s key findings include:

  • A significant number of refugees would pay for cleaner and more efficient energy technologies, but many lack the financial resources required, and the development of markets for such products lacks financial support.
  • In Kakuma, more than one-third expressed a willingness to pay for high quality renewables - a potential customer base of 5,000 families with a market worth $300,000 per year.
  • In Goudoubo, two-thirds of residents surveyed expressed a willingness to pay for healthier cooking options - a potential customer base of 2,000 families with a market worth up to $270,000 per year.
  • Centralized electricity supply solutions – such as mini-grids or grid connections – are more economic than the current use of multiple stand-alone diesel generators which is a wasteful approach, with each facility managing its own power supply. Greater coordination among humanitarian operations is required so that centralized solutions can be assessed, designed, financed and implemented. 
  • Trying to meet existing basic cooking, lighting and phone-charging needs is costly for refugees, consuming a significant share of already-stretched monthly budgets.
  • Three out of five families in Kakuma report health problems due to smoke from cookstoves.
  • Street lighting is a high priority for residents due to concerns about security and safety in camps. In Goudoubo, 86 per cent of survey respondents said that more household members would go out after dark if there were better public lighting.
  • A variety of energy options giving varying levels and qualities of service is required. Current ‘one size fits all’ approaches are inappropriate.
  • By working with the private sector and developing markets, cost-effective solutions for refugees can be found which also benefit host communities.

Read the full report here.

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