Saving Lives, Reducing Costs: Moving Energy Initiative Launches Flagship Report (c) Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
© Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Heat, Light and Power for Refugees: Saving Lives, Reducing Costs

The Moving Energy Initiative Launches its Flagship Report

November 17, 2015

The Moving Energy Initiative, developed by Chatham House and the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) and backed by a consortium that includes UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Practical Action, has released its first report: Heat, Light and Power for Refugees: Saving Lives, Reducing Costs.

The report, authored by Glada Lahn and Owen Grafham of Chatham House, with a foreword by Kofi Annan, focuses on the energy needs and use of refugees and displaced people worldwide, and presents the first ever estimates of the volume and costs of energy used in situations of forced displacement worldwide. The evidence strongly suggests the need for an overhaul in the way that energy is managed within the humanitarian sector and shows how new approaches could benefit refugees and displaced people, host country communities and the environment. 

Key points from the report are as follows: 

Energy use by displaced people is economically, environmentally and socially unsustainable. Children and women bear the greatest costs. In 2014, household energy use among forcibly displaced people amounted to around 3.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent to an estimated cost of $2.1 billion. This minimal energy use generates disproportionate emissions.

Improving access to cleaner and more modern energy solutions would reduce costs, cut emissions and save lives. The widespread introduction of improved cookstoves and basic solar lanterns could save $323 million a year in fuel costs in return for a one-time capital investment of $335 million for the equipment.

The barriers to a sustainable, healthier, more cost-effective system are not technological but institutional, operational and political.  There is a severe shortage of energy expertise in the humanitarian system and no systematic approach to planning for and managing energy provision. Political sensitivities in some cases prevent rational approaches.

Doing things differently can bring significant benefits for host countries. Energy investments help integrate displaced populations and provide a legacy asset for local communities. They can also contribute to national and local sustainable development objectives.

The report identified six imperatives for change:

  • Incorporate sustainable energy access for displaced people into international, national and agency agendas.
  • Build the data.
  • Coordinate national ambitions and humanitarian aims for mutual benefit.
  • Embed energy projects and accountability at the local level.
  • Explore new delivery models.

Explore innovative funding models.

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