Research Themes

Integrated policy approaches to energy provision

How does energy provision for refugees interface with wider debates around ‘development’ on the one hand and ‘humanitarian assistance’ on the other?


Energy provision has been a relative latecomer to policy debates on humanitarian responses to displaced populations and is often dealt with separately from issues related to the provision of water, health, education and other services. There is increasing recognition among international and national donors (including UNHCR) of the need for technical and financial assistance to bolster national capacity to address environmental challenges in or near refugee-hosting areas and to invest upfront in smart technologies that increase the use of renewable energy and prevent the degradation of the environment. This reflected in the Global Compact on Refugees which also acknowledges the need to develop business models for the delivery of clean energy that cater more effectively to refugee and host community needs.

This research theme considers the extent to which an intersectional policy framework, which creates synergy between energy and other key humanitarian issues such as health, education, security and the environment, and cross-cutting issues such as gender, can offer improved solutions in providing energy to displaced people. How does energy provision for refugees interface with wider debates around ‘development’ on the one hand and ‘humanitarian assistance’ on the other? What are the policy implications of similarities/differences in energy and other humanitarian services? Are there lessons to be learnt?

Access to energy: using power to empower

How can energy provision for displaced populations embed self-determination and self-reliance into existing and new structures?


There is growing concern about the extent and ways in which the provision of humanitarian support to refugees and other displaced populations can serve to create and reinforce dependency, reducing people’s ability to support themselves and their families and limiting opportunities for integration into local economic, social and political structures. These concerns are amplified in situations where there displacement becomes protracted, in some cases lasting upwards of 20 years.

Drawing on existing research assessing the problems of dependency and marginalisation associated with refugee camps, this theme considers the matrix of power between energy interventions, energy suppliers and displaced communities. We will examine the extent to which intersection and interdependency between infrastructures, socio-economic, environmental and political factors disenfranchise refugees’ interaction and ownership of energy, addressing ways in which alternative narratives around energy can promote greater equity, autonomy and dignity.

How can energy provision for displaced populations embed self-determination and self-reliance into existing and new structures? To what extent can/do energy projects in displaced communities accommodate consultation to encourage bottom-up solutions?

What are the societal and cultural barriers to engagement between refugees and sustainable energy services both within camps and in relation to the local/host community? What approaches and methodologies for the delivery of energy to displaced populations will enable refugees to move from recipients to participants in their own futures?

 

Energy Technologies

How do we ensure that energy solutions proposed, procured and installed in refugee and IDP settlements truly meet the needs of their beneficiaries and cater for fulfilling their aspirations?

As traditional energy sources like coal, gas and oil become more difficult to find and a bigger global push towards renewable energy continues, new energy gathering technologies are being developed in both developed and developing contexts. Many of these energy technologies have the potential to significantly enhance energy access, creating off-grid, renewable energy for thousands of displaced people. This will enable them to start businesses, improve their health and education, save time and gain increased economic independence.

In this context the research aims to answer the following questions:

How do we ensure that energy solutions proposed, procured and installed in refugee and IDP settlements truly meet the needs of their beneficiaries and cater for fulfilling their aspirations?
Furthermore, how do we ensure that such solutions are sustainable, leverage on the local economy of products and skills and are future proof?

Gender and access to energy in displacement contexts

In what ways do gendered divisions of labour and power shape differential energy access, usage, and needs?


Energy use and access is highly gendered. Women and girls are often primarily responsible for collecting fuel and water for their families, generally have lower access to finance and energy-related services (such as grid electricity) than men, experience greater health consequences associated with indoor pollution from the use of cooking stoves and are more likely to experience ‘‘time poverty’ as a result of spending significant amounts of time gathering firewood for basic energy needs. This can result in severe opportunity costs that prevent women and girls from participating in education and other services thus reproducing and reinforcing existing gender inequalities. Women may also be subject to Gender-based violence (GBV) associated with remote fuelwood collection and a lack of street lighting.

This research theme explores the impact of gender inequality in the use, planning, procurement and delivery of energy for displaced populations living in refugee camps and other contexts. The focus is on better understanding gender differences and gendered inequalities in energy needs, access, and aspirations. In what ways do gendered divisions of labour and power shape differential energy access, usage, and needs? To what extent can sustainable energy services promote greater self-determination, equity and security for displaced women and girls? Most importantly, by reimagining energy as a gendered structure, is it possible to challenge, and ultimately transform, energy practices in displacement settings in ways that reduce, rather than increase, gendered inequalities for displaced populations (and more generally)?

Internet of Things (IOT) for Energy

This theme will explore the potential of current and emerging IoT solutions for distributed, off-grid, renewable micro-grid systems management

IoT technology is an acclaimed enabler for flexible, distributed energy generation, management and consumption as well as a facilitator for new energy services, financing models and sectorial digital business processes. This theme will explore the potential of current and emerging IoT solutions for distributed, off-grid, renewable micro-grid systems management. We will explore designs for energy distribution and payment processes that have community acceptance and buy-in, directly address community needs and leverage local entrepreneurial capacity.

Interdisciplinary approaches to energy provision

What are the benefits in an interdisciplinary knowledge exchange when conceptualising, delivering and monitoring energy projects?

The HEED project brings together academics, researchers, practitioners and services providers from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives including engineering, computer studies, energy policy, geography and political science.

This theme, which cuts across all aspects of the project, focuses on the extent an interdisciplinary approach to energy projects can develop synergy between technology and humanity. To what extent will an integration of multiple epistemic standpoints and methodological positions generate holistic, sustainable and safe access to energy in displaced camps? What are the narratives that emerge on energy in a refugee setting when the fields of Social Sciences and STEM combine? What are the benefits in an interdisciplinary knowledge exchange when conceptualising, delivering and monitoring energy projects?