Sustainable energy for refugees: a reliable humanitarian solution

sustainable energy for refugees
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A new report has identified potential renewable energy solutions which could enable refugees to access reliable, low cost electricity.

The ‘Renewables for refugee settlements: sustainable energy access in humanitarian situations’ report, jointly compiled by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), was released at the Global Refugee Forum, held this week in Geneva. The report’s release coincided with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UNHCR and IRENA, committing the two bodies to shore up their existing co-operation endeavours with the goal of enhancing renewable energy provision for refugees.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “In line with our Global Strategy for Sustainable Energy, we aim to ensure that refugees can meet their basic energy needs in exile while also minimising environmental degradation. Sustainable energy access will bridge this gap, enabling refugees to pursue education, supporting businesses and social enterprises, spurring innovation and exponentially enhancing the safety and wellbeing of people and communities, until such time that they can return home. This report and this new partnership between IRENA and UNHCR, is the beginning of an important alliance to mainstream access to energy for refugees and displaced people as well as their local communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.”

The report explored the current and potential energy provision at four refugee settlements in Ethiopia and Iraq. Researchers found frequent blackouts and brownouts, with refugees living in the settlements primarily dependent on diesel generators – which are both expensive and unsustainable. The report therefore strongly recommended the widespread implementation of sustainable energy solutions, in particular advocating solar mini-grids; which are reliable and energy efficient.

Director General of IRENA Francesco La Camera said: “Renewables can quickly and effectively change the lives of refugees for the better. Off-grid and grid connected small and medium sized solar installations are available, affordable and can bring reliable power to millions of displaced people around the world. We are looking forward to closely work and support UNHCR in its effort to protect life in humanitarian situations. Renewable solutions could become essential to the humanitarian toolkit.”

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