The Humanitarian Energy for Displaced Populations in Refugee Camps and Informal Settlements (HELP) project aims to understand how the energy needs of forcibly displaced people can be met in a safe, sustainable manner. Led by Coventry University, HELP is run in partnership with the international development charity, Practical Action, and Scene Connect, a social enterprise focused on strengthening communities through the development of ICT products.

Research into energy access, provision and demand will be conducted with inhabitants, humanitarian workers and energy providers in self-settlements, host communities and refugee camps in Africa and Asia. The team will design, implement and monitor energy systems for 80 households (480 individuals) in Rwanda and Nepal, working with women, youths and householders to address specific issues such as clean cooking, lighting and electricity for productive uses. It will test the feasibility of alternative energy sources, seeking to design socio-technical systems that encourage technological and enterprise sustainability. Findings will be used to develop a series of case studies and produce evidence-based methodologies to aid future decision-making in the procurement and provision of intelligent and affordable energy solutions for displaced communities throughout the world.

Objectives and research questions:

The project seeks to provide research on energy needs in self-settlements, host communities and refugee camps, and understand how sustainable energy solutions can be delivered. Based on this evidence, the consortium will engage a range of energy stakeholders to design and implement sustainable energy solutions. The role of sustainable sources of energy in providing energy services for refugee protection is a critical area for innovation and scale-up. While the focus within refugee camps is often on solar energy (due to the advanced nature of this technology and the natural solar resource available in many developing countries), there are increasing opportunities for the use of renewable biomass and biogas, wind generators, micro-hydro, geothermal, LPG, and waste recycling. Similarly, renewable micro-grids and hybrid systems are often proposed as options for enabling flexible solutions that can be supplied quickly and efficiently in humanitarian emergencies. In addition, the feasibility and ability of low-cost, remote monitoring wireless systems to manage assets and pre-empt operations and maintenance issues of energy infrastructure require further investigation. Digital infrastructure could potentially be created to provide the private sector with the assurance it requires to enter this market which has traditionally been the domain of humanitarian actors. All these scientific areas are worthy of research.

The programme of work will provide energy access to four displaced populations in Rwanda (Kigeme, Nyabiheke, Gihembe refugee camps) and Nepal (Bhutan refugees), assess the impact of the provision of energy on people’s lives against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and create impact through scalability of the energy solutions. Through the program, we aim to build capacity within partner countries and organisations. To deliver this, the progress and outputs of the project will be disseminated through the UNESCO UNITWIN Network in Humanitarian Engineering (in which Coventry University is the global lead) as well as specially designed workshops to be held in Africa and Asia over the three year programme period.

Specific Research Questions

As researchers and policymakers seek to build resilient and sustainable energy services into their responses to humanitarian crisis and forced displacement, this project examines:

  1. How do refugees use energy and what are their energy needs and aspirations?
  2. Based on the baseline survey of energy practice, how can displaced settlements provided with energy (for cooking, lighting and power) in a sustainable manner to enable increases in health, well-being and productivity?
  3. How can wireless sensor networks monitoring and user-driven control of energy systems be used to understand and promote/support user preferences and patterns for energy use?
  4. How can intelligent energy supply and demand systems be integrated with sustainable digital business processes to promote energy efficiency, social cohesion and economic growth in refugee communities?

The research leading to these results has received funding from the EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund under grant agreement n° EP/P029531/1.
| The research presented in this website has undergone ethical approval at Coventry University reference: P61091.