Humanitarian energy access

Investigating the market-based delivery of solar home systems in Rwanda refugee camps.

The challenge

Worldwide, there are 136 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Approximately 6.4 million of these people are refugees living in protracted displacement situations where their energy needs are currently being met inadequately or not at all.

This is despite it being widely recognised that access to energy can be a catalyst for improving the health, safety and livelihoods of displaced communities. Furthermore, although there have been improvements in recent years regarding the way energy access and rural electrification projects in development and humanitarian settings are implemented, issues are still arising with their long-term sustainability of projects.

If this status quo remains, it is unlikely that the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) will be met by 2030.

What we're doing

Researchers at the University of Bristol are working alongside a large humanitarian energy programme to understand the diffusion of solar home systems via market-based delivery models in three refugee camps in Rwanda.

We are also contributing members of the Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy Solutions in Situations of Displacement which was created to address current challenges that impede energy access in humanitarian settings

How it helps

The project is contributing to an emerging field of research and advocacy focused on the energy needs of refugees, displaced people and humanitarian operations.

The research is specifically aimed at improving our understanding of how energy interventions diffuse in refugee camps and how they can be better tailored to meet end-users needs and priorities.

Image credit: Edoardo Santangelo, Practical Action

Peter Thomas Lead researcher profile

Peter Thomas, doctoral researcher interested in access to energy in humanitarian relief.

Partner organisations


  • GCRF Ad Hoc Funding
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