"The beans need to cook for several hours before they are ready. The room gets very hot while I am cooking, so I use to step outside while it boils. The fuel efficient mud stove needs less firewood than the tree-stone fire I used before. Now, I only collect firewood 2 times a week in stead of 4. The road that I have to walk to collect firewood is not safe for me and my friends, so I am happy that I don't have to walk that often anymore." 
NORCAP is addressing the energy needs in the refugee camps in Jamjang, South Sudan. One of the biggest issue are cooking fuel and indoor pollution. With the right capacity we will be able to provide efficient and sustainable solutions, focusing on the needs of the refugees. Energy and cash-based interventions can provide the refugees with a choice and at the same time benefit the private sector in the area. 
Solar energy can provide the refugees with lighting, making them safer when walking outside at night. We aim to deploy an energy expert that can better understand the needs and suggest sustainable energy solutions for the humanitarian organizations operating the camps. (Photo: NORCAP/Karina Fredly Sætre)

Access to clean energy

Published 18. Jul 2019
Humanitarian agencies are heavily dependent on fossil fuel and consume most of the energy in humanitarian situations. NORCAP strengthens partners' capacity to provide clean energy services to vulnerable populations and humanitarian operations.

The challenge 

Providing people with access to sustainable energy has been neglected in humanitarian settings over the past decades. One of the main challenges is the lack of funding available for humanitarian energy interventions, and the need for innovative approaches to fill the funding gap.

Access to energy, increased energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy is crucial to strengthening the resilience to environmental issues like the current climate crisis. 

Urgent action from UN agencies and NGOs, donors and the private sector in partnership with governments is required to ensure that displaced people are included in efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 7, which aims to ‘ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’ by 2030. Today, humanitarian organisations lack the necessary technical knowledge and resources to fulfil this goal.

Read more about the widening energy access gap and what can be done to close it in our report written together with BCG: EmPowering Africa's most vulnerable.

How we work

NORCAP works strategically to recruit the best energy experts available – on solar energy, bioenergy, cooking energy , energy efficiency and coordination - to name a few. Our goal is to provide experts to organisations in the humanitarian sector that are ambitious in changing the way they use energy.

Action on climate change: How NORCAP's technical expertise mitigates climate crisis effects.

We push the UN, NGOs and civil society to move away from diesel generators to clean, renewable energy. Collaboration with the private sector is important, both as advisors to our experts, but also as private companies will provide many of the energy solutions NORCAP is working to make available.

NORCAP is the world’s largest provider of energy expertise to humanitarian operations. We currently have more than 20 energy experts supporting our strategic partners on mission in African countries such as Kenya, South Sudan, Senegal, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Egypt and Burundi.

Our work can be divided into three parts:

Improving people’s access to energy
Vulnerable populations need energy for cooking, heating, education and other electrical appliances such as phones and lighting. Our experts work to better understand the needs of the people and communities they meet, to identify the best energy solution for any given setting. Ensuring clean solutions are relevant to the needs of the people of concern and that suggested solutions are both financially and environmentally affordable is a key part of our experts’ work.

Greening humanitarian operations
Humanitarian agencies still largely depend on diesel generators. While diesel generators are a tested and reliable solution, they come at a high price for both the operations and the environment. Our experts work with organisations to help them transition from diesel generators to sustainable energy solutions, such as clean solar power. Due to the considerable reduction in cost of solutions like solar energy, combined with innovative finance models offered by the private sector, a transition to clean energy can unlock funds that humanitarian organisations can use for other needs. One example is how the NRC's country offices in South Sudan are starting to implement solar power after an assessment made by NORCAP's Energy Expert.

Increasing coordination in the energy sector
When a crisis strikes, planning related to the carbon footprint, clean energy solutions and deforestation is not on top of the agenda. NORCAP supports efforts to ensure that energy access, which is a critical part of any emergency operation, is clean, sustainable and cost efficient. To achieve this, we support the secretariat of the Global Plan for Action (GPA) for Sustainable Energy Solutions in Situations of Displacement, which coordinates the UN and other major actors on the humanitarian arena.

Energy expert Emmanuel Biririza is discussing the solar installations in Ajoung Thok with UNHCR staff.
The solar panels were installed in 2018 to supply the health centre with electricity. Only one year later, the installations are not working properly and they only have lighting for one hour in the evening. There is no technical capacity to follow up on this.  
In the maternity house, the doctor has to use a torch when delivering babies at night, and the lack of electricity means that they cannot use the incubator for premature babies. Having a stable and sustainable electricity source can save lives!
Read caption NORCAP energy expert, Emmanuel Biririza, discussing solar installations in Ajoung Thok Refugee Camp in South Sudan.


Our results 

Our experts have worked to strengthen the capacity of our partner organisations to deliver energy services to vulnerable populations and to reduce their dependence on polluting diesel generators in several African countries. Our experts work to compare all the available solutions, ranging from stoves that are more efficient, to tree planting, to use of biogas or solar power.

In situations where firewood is the main source of fuel, competition for dwindling natural resources can trigger tension between refugees and host communities. We have since 2018 assisted in improving access to clean cooking solutions in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Uganda, South Sudan, Senegal, Kenya and Ethiopia.

For the transitions to renewable energy in the field to be successful and sustainable, knowledge and skills are needed. That is why our experts work with capacity building and provide trainings. For example, one of our experts working with the World Food Programme (WFP) helped develop an e-learning package on energy available to all staff, as well as arranging workshops in Nairobi and Johannesburg to the field-based staff who were working on implementing energy projects.

Get in touch 

Start a dialogue with us today:
norcap@nrc.no

Or find out how your organisation can request NORCAP energy experts to strengthen operations.