Alianza Shire begins deploying solar mini-grid in Kobe refugee camp

Work began this June on the installation of the solar mini-grid that will supply clean, renewable energy to 17 community services in the Kobe refugee camp and its host community, including schools and health centres.

 

A stand-alone solar mini-grid is a small-scale electricity generation and distribution system that uses renewable energy resources; in this case, solar energy. Off-grid mini-grids are often designed to supply electricity to communities, villages or specific facilities, especially in rural or remote areas where access to the national grid is limited or non-existent. In addition, by using only solar energy, a mini-grid helps to avoid producing greenhouse gas emissions.

It was therefore the most technically and economically efficient and sustainable solution for the electrification of community services in the Dollo Ado refugee camps and their host communities, which are located on the border with Somalia, far from the national electricity grid. In fact, mini-grids are currently one of the main solutions for bridging the energy gap, especially given the difficulties in connecting to the grid in these cases.

For the deployment of the mini-grid in Kobe – which will cover the energy demand of 17 community services with a photovoltaic generation capacity of 127 kWp – a peripheral area of the refugee camp has been chosen, close to the host community, so that the distribution network has an optimal size to serve the selected community services. The site was identified in close collaboration with the Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS), UNHCR and the NGOs ZOA and Save the Environment Ethiopia (SEE).

 

 

When the installation phase is completed and the mini-grid becomes fully operational, it is expected that the population of Kobe – which includes both refugees and the host community – will have improved access to energy for basic needs of community services such as room lighting, air conditioning of premises through fans, as well as computer and communications equipment and refrigerators.

In addition, the energy generated will also be used to power the electric pressure cookers that will be distributed in the schools as part of this project, which will contribute to the sustainability of the school feeding programme that encourages children to attend school and contributes to improving their health and nutrition.

As part of the Alianza Shire project in Dollo Ado, this intervention – made possible thanks to the support and technical expertise of the Alianza Shire partner Iberdrola – follows the installation of 200 solar luminaires for public road lighting that is also being carried out in Kobe, with the expertise of Signify, another Alianza Shire partner.

 

The culmination of three years of collaborative work

The installation of the mini-grid is one of the final steps in a process of collaborative work that has involved a number of organisations in both Spain and Ethiopia over the past three years.

The process has included several phases, including an assessment of the energy status of community services; prioritisation of the community services to be connected to the mini-grid; several pre-designs to adjust the solution to the budget; awareness-raising to align the needs of the direct beneficiaries with the technical solution and the management model based on a community energy approach; and public procurement for the design, construction and commissioning of the installation.

In addition to the technical team of Alianza Shire, RRS, UNHCR, ZOA, SEE, representatives of the different community services and TramaTecnoAmbiental (the company awarded the contract) have also been involved in this process, having been in charge of the engineering design and installation of the system, and will be responsible for its subsequent commissioning.

For the operation, maintenance and repairs of the system, the Kobe energy cooperative, a local energy company made up of refugees and members of the host community, will also be involved thanks to their technical expertise and training in energy.

This not only improves the quality of life of refugees and host communities, but also strengthens the capacities of a local business, promoting employment and economic development.