Energy Access for the Most Vulnerable Groups : A Study on the Long-Term Effects of Energy Access in a Refugee Camp Context with Inclusion of the Host Community
Abstract: The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outlines 17 goals to end poverty and ensure the right to development for everyone. Previous research has found that 2/3 of the goals partly depend their success upon whether SDG 7 Ensure access to sustainable, affordable and modern energy for all is achieved or not. Given that the Agenda targets everyone it cannot be achieved without reaching the most vulnerable groups, among these groups are migrants, refugees and those internally displaced. Low- and middle-income countries host 84% of this group. Almost 30% of refugees live in managed camp settings and it has been estimated that 80% of these have minimal or no access to electricity. For cooking needs a majority depend on traditional cooking with firewood and charcoal. In many cases this spurs tensions and at times conflict with the local host community, -who often also heavily depend on this resource. On the national level energy is often seen as part of the long-term development planning and as refugee camps and humanitarian setting are recognized as temporary by the host country this creates a vacuum. However, the reality is that 2/3 of all refugees are in protracted refugee situations and the average lifespan of a camp is 17 years. This thesis studied the links between energy and the nexus of environment, social stability and economy in a refugee camp context, and outlined how different energy systems could impact the situations for both groups and also for the relationship between these groups. This was done using the Long-range Energy Alternative Planning systems (LEAP) and by creating a Multi Criteria Analysis template. The case study of Kakuma camp in Turkana County in the North of Kenya was used. The results showed that there are positive and negative aspects related to all energy systems studied here (for household energy access both for electricity and cooking). A refugee camp is a highly complex setting, operating both under the authority of local actors and of international humanitarian actors. For electricity access, Solar Home Systems was found to be a good choice due to the fast deployment time and the low level of infrastructure needed. For already existing households PV Hybrid mini-grids are to be recommended. For cooking options, it was found that for Turkana county, rather than just focusing on GHG emissions it is vital to mitigate deforestation seeing the county’s vulnerability to land-use change. However, changing from firewood and charcoal would affect the livelihood of the host community who depends on the income deriving from the charcoal business. This highlights some of the complexity of the study and the importance of knowing the local context before carrying out energy interventions in a refugee camp and surrounding area. The author’s conclusion is that this methodology could be implemented on any camp setting seeing that modern and clean energy access poses many benefits to people across the world, whether in an urban, rural or refugee camp setting. The thesis found that the main barriers identified for electricity projects of scale are the current funding structure of humanitarian organizations and national government’s attitude towards the camp.
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