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Exploring private sector engagement in meeting refugees’ energy needs

By Standard Reporter | May 5th 2017

NAIROBI, KENYA: Engagement of the private sector has been highlighted as one of the key strategies in promoting renewable energy access among displaced populations.

The recommendation was made during an expert workshop organised by the Moving Energy Initiative on 27 April in Nairobi.

The workshop that brought together experts from government, the UN, international and local NGOs and private sector specialists in renewable energy, sought to identify how the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya could benefit from improved energy access and how energy interventions could be structured to align with national energy priorities and encourage the growth of local energy markets.

The camp, located in north-eastern Kenya and established in 1992, hosts around 168,224 refugees - the majority of whom are South Sudanese.

Deliberations dwelt around the broad areas of national energy priorities for Kenya and the refugee situation, and developing local market based solutions in and around the camp.

In this context, the workshop’s participants had the chance to discuss how enhanced private sector involvement in displacement settings can complement government efforts in promoting renewable energy access to serve the needs of refugees as well as hosting populations.

“The private sector can bring in new expertise and have the incentive to improve access to energy products and services in humanitarian settings. Some are already providing energy solutions to low income and remote communities and we believe that their understanding of the market and how to meet customers’ needs will support the growth of local, sustainable and clean energy markets within refugee and host communities,” says Laura Patel, Moving Energy Initiative Programme Manager.

The Kenyan Government’s role in supporting the acceleration of access to energy was also mentioned, especially in regards to small-scale renewable energy entrepreneurs and the devolution of energy provision to county governments, in line with the country’s Vision 2030.

Private sector companies present also stressed the importance of sustainable policies around renewable energy and financial access as key accelerators for the adoption of solar lighting systems and clean cooking technologies and fuels for refugees.

Participants called for the integration of humanitarian and business approaches for long term sustainable development interventions in providing energy to the refugees.

Experts listed the risks of long term investments, amongst which unstable environments, insecurity, poor road networks, lack of water, unclear contractual guidelines, intellectual property ownership and slow decision making processes, as challenges for the private sector’s involvement in the provision of energy to displaced populations.

They also called for an urgent need to shift from biomass to clean and low carbon energy and explore further options for cash based interventions and provision to vulnerable households in the refugee set-up and host community.

The Nairobi meeting marked the start of a more practical series of interventions organised by the MEI, who are also developing tools to help guide energy investments in countries that are hosting large numbers of refugees.

“The MEI is designing and implementing activities to encourage private sector engagement and market based approaches to energy provision in the humanitarian sector. We are doing this by implementing low carbon projects, exploring contracts for expert management of energy infrastructure, implementing local market-based solutions to energy access challenges and stimulating non - wood fuel markets,” says Energy 4 Impact CEO Ben Good.

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