A keynote speech given by Professor Elena Gaura, World Engineering Day Event, 4th March 2021, Coventry University
Abstract: Having access to the electricity and other forms of energy needed for cooking, heating and lighting is something many of us take for granted. But, according to the International Energy Agency, there are almost a billion people around the world without access to electricity. This ‘energy poverty’ affects regions around the world, but particularly affects people in refugee camps and those who have been displaced as a result of war and natural disasters.
The UN’s Clean Energy Challenge (2019) aims for all refugee settlements to access reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030.
To achieve this goal, engineering and humanitarian responses will need appropriate, creative approaches, tools, skills and new technologies to deliver improved energy solutions in the displacement setting. The implementation of safe, renewable and affordable energy into refugee camps and internally displaced encampments means re-thinking the way that energy systems are designed, maintained and owned to build the capacity and resilience of communities. Adopting a long- term approach in energy planning that focuses on addressing the rights of refugees and other displaced populations (for example those who are internally displaced), options for shared community assets and drawing upon the energy needs and aspirations of displaced people could generate greater self-reliance and pathways for social development and economic opportunities.
Conceiving clean, sustainable, scalable, affordable energy systems is a space that engineers need to fill. Solving increasingly complex and interconnected sustainability challenges requires working in multi-disciplinary teams, across geographical boundaries, and with greater inclusivity of communities. A great challenge for today’s and tomorrow’s engineers!