Energy and Low-Carbon Futures
Sustainable mini-grid systems in refugee camps: A case study of Rwanda
Topics: Energy and Low-Carbon Futures, Health, Impacts and adaptation, Mitigation
Type: Briefing paper
Publication date: March 2020
This briefing note considers how clean energy solutions can be used by humanitarian organisations to both reduce the cost and environmental footprint of their operations, and promote the resilience and independence of displaced communities. Using Rwanda as a case study, the authors provide recommendations for how the private sector and policymakers can encourage greener humanitarian operations.
- The investment in cleaner, long-term energy solutions has the potential to substantially reduce the costs and the environmental impact of humanitarian operations, as well as promoting more resilient and productive livelihoods for displaced populations.
- Limited energy supply and the lack of data on energy use and energy demand, together with the absence of coordinated strategies and funding opportunities, have resulted in inefficient, expensive and polluting energy practices in humanitarian assistance, which are frequently powered by fossil fuel systems.
- A lack of dedicated financial resources and technical expertise of humanitarian organisations hampers the implementation of cleaner energy solutions in humanitarian settings.
- Organisations willing to invest in clean infrastructure face high risks because of the perceived uncertainty about the long-term future of displacement settings.
- Rwanda has one of the most ambitious targets and progressive policy frameworks for rural electrification, where off-grid mini-grids play a key role in remote areas.
- Many different sustainable mini-grid designs are available to adapt to the specific economic and environmental objectives of humanitarian organisations.
- Coordination between different stakeholders, including humanitarian agencies, private sector and national governments, is critical to enable the scale-up of cleaner energy solutions in displacement settings.
[image: Renewable mini-grid system installed by Meshpower Ltd. in partnership with Imperial College London, in Mahama refugee camp, Rwanda. Photo credit: Arthur Santos.]