The cost of electricity in the Shire refugee camps

Alianza Shire team meeting with representatives from the host community of the Mai Aini camp

In May, a team from Alianza Shire visited the refugee camps where we will be working until 2021, with the aim of coordinating the project with partner organizations, the refugee population and host communities, as well as collecting technical data.

These visits have allowed us to observe first-hand the conditions of access to energy for the refugee population, in addition to the operations of several of the small businesses in the camps, the resources they have and the need to improve these businesses.

The Shimelba camp, with more than 1,700 settlements, has five private generators, which only provide energy to 30% of the camp. With these generators, the families pay 100 birr per month (3 euros) for lighting, and 600 birr per month (18 euros) for electricity for a fridge.

A shop in Mai Aini Refugee Camp

In this camp, there are substantial differences between the cost of access to energy between the camp itself and the host community. One of the small businesses visited pays 90 birr per month (2.7 euros) for a lighting point for four hours, and 150 birr per month (4.5 euros) for electricity for a fridge.

On the other hand, another shop in the host community pays 30 birr per month (0.90 euros) for a lighting point, and 27 birr per month (0.80 euros) for electricity for a fridge.

This difference is due to the fact that in the refugee camps, electricity comes from private generators, while in the host community it is supplied through an intermittent connection to the electricity grid.

Shimelba refugee camp

One of the most typical businesses in the refugee camps is a mobile phone recharging station, along with small appliance repair (mobile phones, radio, television, etc.).

In the Mai-Aini refugee camp, Abdel Hatil – real name protected for security reasons – has had a workshop for these types of repairs for 10 years. The workshop is intermittently connected to the main electrical grid, and a lighting point costs 100 birr per month (3 euros).

In the Hitsats camp, Koren Hall – name also protected – has a small shop dedicated solely to recharging mobile phones. It is connected to a private generator that costs 450 birr per month (14 euros). Each day, an average of 100 mobile phones are charged for a cost of 2 birr (0.06 euros) each.

The problems in access to electricity are similar in these cases and, on many occasions, the refugee population often lacks the capacity to bear the costs, mainly those from the supply of private generators.

Alianza Shire is studying a model that enables access to affordable and quality energy for the refugee population and host communities, and which ensures long-term support through training and the creation of small businesses to maintain service.