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Sustainable energy for refugees through Dutch innovation

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Over 2,000 households in a refugee camp in Uganda now have electricity. The electricity comes from solar lamps and panels. The pilot project Access to Modern Energy in Humanitarian Settings (AMPERE) supplies the solar lamps and panels.

This is one of many projects in Uganda run by the Access to Modern Energy Acceleration Programme. All projects have something in common: they create a win-win situation. On the one hand, they supply safe, reliable and sustainable energy to refugees. On the other, they offer people opportunities to make a living for themselves. The programme is the result of a cooperation between the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and the Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation (DCHI). Their approach is clear: innovation and cooperation to supply energy in humanitarian situations. DCHI is a partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and some emergency aid organisations, such as the Red Cross and UNICEF.

How do you help people on the run?

Over 130 million people worldwide depend on emergency humanitarian aid. For example, as a result of local conflicts or natural disasters. Around 90% of people living in refugee camps or settlements have no access to electricity. So 80% of them use firewood and charcoal for cooking their food. This has serious consequences for the health, safety and well-being of these people. It also affects nature and the environment in the areas surrounding their settlements. Today’s humanitarian organisations can make much progress in these cases. But, how do you create an accessible, safe and sustainable supply of energy for people who are on the run?

Treating refugees as consumers

Since October 2019, partners in the Access to Modern Energy Acceleration Programme have set up pilot projects. These projects focus on the supply of renewable energy and business models to deliver that energy. The sustainable business models treat refugees and people in poor communities as consumers. Rather than giving things away, the projects charge a fair price for high-quality goods and services. This strategy appears to work quite well.


An example of such a pilot project is AMPERE, active in a refugee camp in Bidibidi, Uganda. Here, hundreds of thousands of people need electricity. AMPERE has set up an infrastructure to distribute, sell, install and maintain solar energy systems. Residents have the option to buy an energy system via a 'pay-as-you-go’ model. This model takes away the greatest financial barrier for many of them. They can now afford effective lighting powered by solar energy. In total, 2,000 households now have access to electricity in the form of solar lamps and solar panels. Over 600 customers are using the ‘pay-as-you-go’ model.

As part of the project, emergency aid organisations and DCHI partners Mercy Corps, Save the Children, Response Innovation Lab and SNV are working together with local energy companies. The local energy companies were not active in the camp before.

Join Access to Modern Energy

Sign up with DCHI if you run a humanitarian, private or development organisation and share your ideas about energy-related to humanitarian aid.

Because of the success of these pilot projects, we have launched a new phase of the Access to Modern Energy (AME) programme. This round is also the result of a cooperation between the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and DCHI.

The new round of the DCHI programme

DCHI uses innovation to make emergency aid more effective and more affordable. Humanitarian organisations, private companies and development organisations can join these efforts. The AME programme is financed in part by the Inclusive Growth department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. See the DCHI website for information on the new round of the programme.


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