Moving Energy Initiative Gathers Experts to Share Phase 2 Findings

March 26, 2019

This article has been re-posted from energy4impact.org. View the original article here.

On 12th March the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) – a partnership working to achieve clean, affordable and reliable energy among displaced populations – held a research dissemination workshop in Nairobi, Kenya to share findings from the second phase of its programme. The event brought together stakeholders from government, the UN, international and local NGOs, and private sector specialists in renewable energy who have been involved and engaged throughout the second phase of the programme, which ran from May 2016 to March 2019. It shared findings and lessons learnt from the activities undertaken in Kenya, aiming to inform the future programming and projects of those in attendance.

Since 2016, the Moving Energy Initiative has implemented a series of initiatives in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp Complex and the surrounding area, with the aim of improving energy access and management for refugees, humanitarian agencies and the host community. This included completing energy surveys on the current energy use and priorities of refugees living in the camp, implementing projects to demonstrate the use of low carbon technologies, and implementing activities to encourage the development of markets for household solar products.

Several of the partners MEI has worked with to implement activities, presented at the event on their experience. One of these partners, BBOXX, a pay-as-you-go solar home system company, spoke of how the company now has a portfolio of over 350 customers in and around the Kakuma camp, with 86% of these customers’ refugees from the camp itself. After receiving a grant from the MEI to set up and run operations in the area for the first 6 months, the company has been able to continue its operations and grow their sales. Although the company has experienced challenges in high transportation and labour costs, surveys completed by the company showed that 100% of BBOXX customers agree that the products have made a positive impact on their lives, reflected by an average utilisation rate of 75% for the products.

As Joane Kayibanda, BBOXX Head of Operations for Kenya explains, 

"Despite facing increased costs to access the market around Kakuma we have been able to prove that there is a market for cleaner energy solutions among the refugee populations and that they are willing and able to pay. We have not yet reached commercial sustainability but we can see the potential is there, with sales continuing to grow and opportunities to expand further into Turkana County."

 

Other partners that presented at the event included International Rescue Commitee (IRC) who spoke about the positive impacts that solarising two of their health clinics in Kakuma has had on their operations. Set up by KUBE Energy, and with funding from MEI, the two solar systems, which have capacity of 36kw and 3kw respectively, are saving up to $30,000 a year by reducing the cost of diesel previously used. The IRC shared how the solar systems have improved their delivery of health care services, for example allowing them to store vaccinations on site and how working with the private sector has enabled them to bring in additional technical expertise. However, challenges still exist in funding such projects through humanitarian budgets. Whilst clear cost savings can be gained there is a mismatch between the annual funding cycles of humanitarian agencies and the multi-year contracts required to engage the private sector to provide longer term solutions through energy service agreements.

Crown Agents and Resilience Action also shared their experience of setting up a solar powered ICT Hub in Kakuma and some of the successes, as well as challenges of the project and in particular ideas for new revenue streams to support the sustainability of the Hub. These include working with local education programmes to train students from the Hub, running online courses and increasing the Hub’s capacity in phone charging services.

The event started and concluded with presentations from Energy 4 Impact which shared results from projects implemented in Kenya, and the programme’s other focus countries of Jordan and Burkina Faso. It also highlighted the MEI’s successes at the global level, including increasing the profile of energy for displaced people in international forums such as the SE4All Global Tracking Framework and in the Sphere Humanitarian Handbook. MEI has also contributed to catalysing new initiatives looking at energy for displaced people, such as the Global Plan of Action and the RE4R programme in Rwanda funded by IKEA Foundation, with several other donors now developing initiatives in this area.

Laura Patel, MEI Programme Manager, shared with stakeholders key lessons from the programme particularly in engaging with the private sector in providing energy solution in displacement settings. This included the need to consider economies of the wider region (beyond just refugee camps) to build more robust markets and opportunities and to support relationships between humanitarian and private sector actors that often have differing objectives. As Laura explains,

"Private sector engagement in improving the delivery of energy services and products in displacement settings has been a strong focus of the Moving Energy Initiative. A spectrum currently exists from subsidies to fully commercial approaches. Whilst there will be segments of displaced populations that will always require some form of subsidy the MEI has shown that displaced people are already spending money on energy products and services that can be built upon and that there are people that are willing to pay for them."

 

The event prompted lively comments and questions from the audience particularly on how to make donor funded interventions more sustainable, the potential for market based approaches and the need for changes in the funding cycles of humanitarian agencies to encourage better utilisation of renewable energy.

Catrine Shroff, Managing Director for Mwangaza Light, a Kenyan clean energy distributor who has worked with the MEI, described some of the benefits she has seen from the programme: ‘MEI funded a team from Mwangaza Light and our partners the National Council of Churches of Kenya, and SMEP Microfinance Bank to undertake a market scoping exercise in April 2018, for the Green Churches Initiative, which aim to helps churches lead the transition to clean energy. We talked with religious leaders in Kakuma camp, town, and in Kalobeyei town and conducted a survey with almost 100 religious leaders on their current energy use and interest in promoting clean energy to their members and surrounding community - almost every leader was interested in this work. The market scoping exercise has given us baseline information to move the project forward and we are looking for funding to pilot the Green Churches & Green Mosques Initiative in the Kakuma area’.

The event in Nairobi is one of a series of forums to promote research produced from the MEI and findings from its work, with similar events conducted in Burkina Faso and Jordan. Findings from the programme’s research can also be found in several learning papers and toolkits including The cost of fuelling humanitarian aidInnovative financing for humanitarian energy interventions and Cooking in displacement settingsThese papers and further resources from the programme can be found on the MEI website.

The Moving Energy Initiative is a major partnership between Chatham House, Energy 4 Impact, Practical Action, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), the UNHCR and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) – which is working to change the way that energy is deployed and delivered in situations of human displacement.