Project Aims

Without better data on current energy consumption, systems, and lived experiences, practitioners, policymakers, and humanitarian NGOs are faced with considerable barriers in delivering cleaner and more cost-effective energy sources in displacement settings.

To address the gap in knowledge, HEED collected data from a range of energy interventions around three key outputs:

1) Identify best practice in the construction, location and security measures for long-lived street lighting
2) Understand the impact, benefits, and behaviour changes bought about by community co-designed lighting
3) Document electricity usage, its costs and sufficiency in grid-connected sub-metered scenarios for displaced populations

Sustainability of energy systems is one of the biggest challenges faced in displaced communities. As one of the first energy projects to commit to a co-designed community energy process, HEED produced new opportunities for community assets, aid skills development and supported self-determination for refugees. The key difference between what HEED did and other projects is the project showed a way to transition from needs-based energy solutions to energy interventions that address the needs and aspirations of camp-based refugees.


Primary research for the HEED project was undertaken for refugee camps in Rwanda and for internally displaced people in Nepal. These sites were selected because they allowed for a comparison of energy cultures across distinct contexts of protracted settlement and forced displacement. Fieldwork in both locations was guided by our specific research questions. The methodology for the HEED project consists of four separate but overlapping phases:

Phase 1: Project set up, mapping and baseline survey of current energy practice (September 2017 – June 2018)

Phase 1 involved a series of activities to better understand the contexts within which the HEED project was working. These activities included field visits to the research sites, project meetings to better understand the interface between engineering and social policy interventions and training. Two, five-day research methods training programs in Quantitative and Qualitative Methods for Research on Energy and Forced Displacement was designed by all members of the project team to build research capacity around data collection and analysis. Recruitment of researchers was coordinated through Practical Action and their relevant country networks reaching out to universities and third-party organisations. A baseline survey was conducted using the quantitative and qualitative research methods tool kits developed by Practical Action on energy in contexts of forced displacement. The survey was undertaken with 181 households. 18 enterprises and 3 community facilities to better understand which energy issues should be the focus of the HEED’s energy design interventions and to identify households and businesses to take part in Phase 2 of the project.

The energy data from the survey has been archived and made available in this data portal.

Phase 2: D4D and E4E workshops (June – December 2018)

Three two-day ‘Design for Displacement (D4D)’ workshops brought together policymakers in Nepal with social entrepreneurs, industry, academics, manufactures, distributors, maintenance services in the off-grid energy and ICT sector, to develop energy designs informed by the quantitative and qualitative research data gathered from phase 1 of the HEED project. The workshops were held in Nepal (September 2018). In addition, end-users were involved in the design process through 3 ‘Energy for End users (E4E)’ workshops with a number of key user groups including young people, women, social entrepreneurs, local business members and NGO representatives. These events provided an opportunity for those directly involved in energy provision and consumption in displacements settings to build on the design of the energy interventions in Phase 3.

Phase 3: Energy system implementation for cooking, lighting and power (January – December 2019)

An outcome of phases 1 and 2 was a number of energy interventions to deploy in Nepal. These systems were developed to better understand how energy would be used and to promote opportunities for energy efficiency, social cohesion and economic growth in displaced communities. The systems aimed to avoid inappropriate or misuse of the limited energy available to the refugee camp and encourage good use of power (e.g. during peak hours for solar renewable energy) and discourage irresponsible or unnecessary use of energy (e.g. limiting the use of energy for a period of time). Data from each energy system deployment is being monitored and uploaded to the data portal.

Phase 4: Analysis, dissemination and engagement with industry and policymakers (January – September 2020)

The dissemination of lessons learnt from HEED are on-going throughout the lifetime of the project. We are engaging with a wide range of users and stakeholders to maximize the impact of the project. This includes conference presentations, journal publications, reports, guides and training. Details on publications can be found here.