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Prototyping Humanitarian Energy Solutions

Reos Partners
February, 2019


As more and more people become displaced around the world, it is becoming increasingly expensive to provide them with power. As the need grows, the humanitarian sector is seeking new ways to provide that energy.

More than 134 million people around the world are in need of humanitarian assistance, and $1.2 billion is currently being spent on diesel to provide that power each year—roughly 5% of the sectors’ budgets. A recent report by Chatham House indicates if things were done differently, it could lead to operational savings of $517 million a year.

Beyond these savings, introducing sustainable energy solutions could pave the way for other benefits like the introduction of street lighting, water pumping, or additional affordable electricity for the hosted and local populations. Further, it leaves the host country with new assets, helping it to generate cleaner and more affordable energy for its local population once a refugee crisis has been resolved. However, despite the fact that Ban Ki-Moon publicly announced in 2007 for the UN to become carbon neutral by 2020, none of the large humanitarian players have an energy strategy in place yet.

From need to solution: a plan of action is launched

Integrating sustainable energy solutions in humanitarian program cycles is complex and challenging, as became clear in the recent conversations at the ICRC Energy Challenge. In the world of immediate emergency relief, sustainability is not a priority for humanitarian interventions and implementers.

Tackling this challenge will require identification of shared energy challenges by the full range of stakeholders in the humanitarian energy system, and shifting mindsets in order to support experimentation with new approaches. To this end, a Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy Solutions for Situations of Displacement (GPA) was launched in July 2018, to support a transformation of the humanitarian energy system. The potential for engagement with non-traditional partners and transforming the way things are done by experimenting a way forward was also key takeaways from the ICRC Energy Challenge.

Leveraging Social Labs to minimize risks and improve results

Reos Partners supports a number of Social Labs at the local, national, and global levels. Such labs allow for ideas to be developed, tested, and adjusted before too much time and money is spent on them. These are a valuable solution in a social sector where energy data and solutions are lacking, and where donor funding is becoming tight. The social lab approach can allow for a process where the combined expertise of a range of stakeholders contributes to transforming the conditions that are generating the current humanitarian energy challenges.

Not only will Social Labs reduce risk and lower the cost of prototyping energy solutions. It will allow partners to collaboratively and proactively try them out in a cycle of institutional and cross-sector consultations, experimentation, assessment, and revision— accelerating the process toward implementing more sustainable energy solutions.




OCHA, Global Humanitarian Overview, 2018

Moving Energy Initiative, 2018

The Costs of Fuelling Humanitarian Aid, 2018

The Costs of Fuelling Humanitarian Aid, 2018

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