A local energy cooperative: the key to the sustainability of Alianza Shire’s home energy access model

When Alianza Shire first became active in the Dollo Ado area (on the border with Somalia), one of the first actions undertaken was to identify which organisations were already working in the five refugee camps in the area. 

There were five energy cooperatives among the organisations operating on the ground, with one in each camp. These cooperatives were local businesses made up of refugees from the camps themselves and members of the host communities, with training and knowledge in energy, who were already local managers of several solar mini-grids, solar street lighting and some solar home systems.  

What is the history of the Dollo Ado energy cooperatives?

The origin of these local enterprises dates back to 2017, when UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation provided equipment for solar mini-grids, solar street lighting and solar home systems to provide power to the five refugee camps in Dollo Ado. The programme envisaged the creation of an energy cooperative in each camp to provide services such as street lighting maintenance, installation and repair of solar home systems, and mini-grid maintenance. 

Thanks to this intervention, the members of the cooperative were trained in operations and maintenance, and have now become the main local energy providers. In fact, since 2018, the UNHCR and IKEA Foundation solar mini-grids have been fully managed by the five cooperatives.  

Currently, the energy cooperative operating in Hilaweyn refugee camp -called Muruqmaal- comprises a dozen people, three of them women, both refugees and from the host community. Recently, in order to expand their responsibilities and work with the Alianza Shire’s home energy access project, two new workers have joined the cooperative.



Could this local agent be included in Alianza Shire’s model for deployment, maintenance and management of solar home systems?

Initially, the local NGO SEE, another of the actors identified in Dollo Ado, was considered to manage the provision of electricity services with solar home systems.  

However, the decision was made to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the existence of the energy cooperative, after discussions with different local entities and in order to adapt to the specific context of Dollo Ado and its local resources.  

In the end, SEE remained the owner of the systems and handed them over to the Muruqmaal cooperative. The latter has taken over the management of the electricity service, both technically and economically, drawing on its skills and knowledge of the context. The cooperative therefore undertakes and expands on the role of the existing user service centre of acciona.org’s “Luz en Casa” initiative, in which Alianza Shire has adapted its model for the provision of household electricity services in vulnerable contexts.  


Home electricity service delivery model


The role of the energy cooperative in the work of Alianza Shire in Hilaweyn

As can be seen in the infographic below, Muruqmaal is currently one of the main actors in Alianza Shire’s work in Hilaweyn, playing a key role in both the installation phase of the systems as well as in their maintenance and financial management.  

More specifically, the cooperative is deploying solar PV access systems in 2,000 households, installing the solar home systems. It is also carrying out maintenance, repair and replacement of damaged electrical components, as well as financial management tasks, as it is the entity that signs the contracts with the users, collects the fee, and manages the replacement fund to replace the solar home system batteries at the end of their useful life.  

It also maintains regular communication with the Advisory Council, a group of organisations (AECID, acciona.org, SEE, RRS, UNHCR, Kebelle, Woreda) that ensure the correct functioning of the electricity service provision model and which have the power to authorise certain strategic and operational aspects, playing an important role in the dialogue between the parties involved in the management model that has been designed.  

Lastly, the cooperative is also the interlocutor with the photovoltaic electrification committee, the organisation representing the users of the service.   This not only aims to maintain the sustainability of project results over time, but also contributes to employment and local capacity building.