HEED Refugee

HEED Refugee

Humanitarian Engineering and Energy for Displacement


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - Global Challenges Research Fund 




Practical Action & Scene Connect

Project Team

Professor Elena Gaura (PI, Coventry University) Professor Heaven Crawley (Co-I Research Professor),  Dr James Brusey, (Research Associate), Dr Jonathan Nixon, (Research Associate), Dr Thomas Yeboah (Research Associate) and Dr. Kriti Bhargava (Research Fellow).

Project Objectives

The Humanitarian Engineering and Energy for Displacement (HEED) Project aims to:

  1. Increase the access of forcibly displaced people to affordable and sustainable energy; and
  2. Introduce new principles for the design, procurement and provision of energy products and services to forcibly displaced communities worldwide.

In order to achieve the objectives the project will:

  • Expand the evidence base upon which decisions about demand for energy services amongst forcibly displaced communities and humanitarian agencies in Rwanda and Nepal made by building up a portfolio of qualitative and quantitative case studies based on primary fieldwork with refugees, humanitarian workers and energy providers in the Kigeme, Nyabiheke, Gihembe camps in Rwanda and for a settlement of internally displace people (IDPs) in Nepal and publishing these as reports in collaboration with UNESCO UNITWIN Network in Humanitarian Engineering.
  • Translate research findings into 'design for displacement' protocols and prototypes for use by humanitarian agencies in procurement processes and by the private sector in the future production of sustainable technologies for lighting, cooking and decentralised energy generation; seek feedback from key stakeholders through three ‘Design for Displacement’ (D4D) and twelve ‘Energy for End-Users’ (E4E) workshops in the UK, Rwanda and Nepal.
  • Design, implement and monitor energy systems for households, entrepreneurs and community facilities that connect people, products, processes and policies in Rwanda and Nepal.
  • Contribute to the scientific knowledge based on energy access, energy demand, energy provision and energy monitoring in contexts of forced displacement and global poverty through contributions to peer reviewed academic journals, a briefing paper series and other outputs as appropriate.

Research Impact

The project aims to increase access to affordable and sustainable energy for displaced populations. We will develop a human and data-centred approach to knowledge about energy demands in contexts of displacement, by implementing user-centred energy systems and processes, in order to inform future energy policy and practice in the humanitarian sector. The project will enable the scaling and replication of modular energy systems with intelligent supply and demand management integrated with digital business processes to other displacement settings globally. Lessons from the project will inform the design of off-grid energy systems.

This project lays out a pathway to impact through its collaboration with:

  • UN institutions particularly UNHCR and UNDP’
  • International organisations working to address the needs of displaced populations;
  • Existing third sector networks, particularly those focused on energy needs and aspirations;
  • A range of local and national government departments in the countries in which the research is being conducted (Rwanda and Nepal).

Our dissemination strategy includes:

Society - HEED aims to benefit displaced populations through the provision of clean energy by enhancing safety, security, health and livelihoods. The project hopes to change the way refugees see themselves, instead of being 'beneficiaries', they will become agents able to choose, produce, consume and take part in the running of their own communities. The project will widen the knowledge base of researchers, students, renewable energy specialists, sensors experts, social scientist and digital business entrepreneurs.

Environment - The project will contribute to reducing charcoal and diesel usage (and the associated emission involved in the transportation of these fuels to remote refugee camps) through the provision of clean energy systems. Large emissions savings are possible through small changes and fundamental reform of the energy environment in camps.

Visit the HEED website


  • Futurum article: How can we tackle energy poverty in refugee camps?
  • Humanitarian engineering: Free teaching resource which explain the work of pervasive computing expert, Dr Elena Gaura, and her work on the HEED project that provided energy to refugee camps in Rwanda and Nepal. These resources are suitable for 14 to 19 year olds in line with KS4 and KS5 Engineering and Computing curriculum. Visit TES and Teacherspayteachers to download them now.
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