Ensuring household access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy in refugee camps

At Alianza Shire, we are making it possible for 2,000 households in the Hilaweyn refugee camp to have sustainable, long-lasting and affordable household access to electricity.

How? With an innovative energy delivery model based on the previous experience of the acciona.org Foundation, an Alianza Shire member specialising in bringing energy access to difficult environments.

Like other models of electricity service provision under acciona.org’s global rural electrification initiative “Luz en Casa”, the one developed for this project is based on a technological model with third-generation household photovoltaic systems, a multi-stakeholder management model involving all stakeholders and an economic model based on affordability and sustainability criteria.

The multi-stakeholder management model, key to sustainability

The management model developed, which is adapted to the specific context of the Hilaweyn refugee camp, is remarkable. Designing it has required extensive and detailed information provided by the local population and organisations present in the camp. There has been a continuous dialogue with the different actors, through which, finally, the ecosystem of organisations necessary to develop and support the model has been created.

In this regard, five main actors have been involved: the beneficiary population, the Murukmale Energy Cooperative of Hilaweyn, the NGO Save the Environment Ethiopia (SEE), a photovoltaic electrification committee (CEF), and an Advisory Council.

The users benefit from the electricity provided by the systems, and are committed to complying with the conditions of this electricity service in order to contribute to its sustainability. The energy cooperative is responsible for supplying the systems to the beneficiary population and subsequently providing them with technical assistance services.

The NGO SEE remains the owner and is responsible for the systems, contracting the energy cooperative to manage the technical services with its support and supervision, while providing assistance to the Photovoltaic Electrification Committee.

What exactly is the role of the Photovoltaic Electrification Committee (CEF)? It is the representative body of the beneficiary population. Its members are volunteers elected by and among the users through a vote, and its main function is the interlocution between the beneficiary population, the energy cooperative and SEE.

And the Advisory Council? A role created specifically for Hilaweyn, the Advisory Council is composed of one representative from each of the following organisations involved: acciona.org, AECID, UNHCR, SSE, RRS (Ethiopian government department for refugees) and two local authorities. It is responsible for overseeing the proper implementation of the delivery model, as well as authorising key strategic or operational issues affecting the delivery model.

Economic sustainability, a pillar of the initiative’s success

Previously, it was indicated that users are committed to complying with the conditions of the electricity service they receive in order to contribute to its sustainability. Conditions involve making good use of the system and contributing a small fee.

What is the fee for? Households contribute a monthly fee that enables them to use the energy generated by the system, while at the same time helping to cover the operating, maintenance and replacement costs that SEE contracts with the energy cooperative. These tasks are what ensure the systems’ operability and, therefore, long-term sustainability.

The fee has been set taking into account the usual acciona.org criterion of being lower than the previous energy expense. After ascertaining that 98% of households in the Hilaweyn refugee camp have no access to electricity, a socio-economic survey identified that households in the camp spent 17% of their income on energy, about 580 birr on average, and in the host communities 13%, about 890 birr. Based on this data, the general fee was set at 300 birr and, in addition, a fee of 10 birr was set for vulnerable users and 100 birr for CEF members.

This ensures affordability, which facilitates fundraising and, therefore, that the beneficiary population itself facilitates the sustainability of the project. The model has been designed with the objective of ensuring the sustainability of the project for at least the next ten years.

This sustainability can only be achieved with the permanent commitment of all stakeholders. This commitment is based on the training and support that Alianza Shire and its partners are offering to the different actors, so that they have the tools with which to assume the responsibilities described here in an informed manner and carry them out appropriately.