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HELP Refugee, Humanitarian Energy for Displaced Populations in Refugee Camp and Informal Settlements


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




Practical Action & Scene Connect

Project Team

Professor Elena Gaura (PI, Coventry University), Anh Tran (Co-I Coventry University), Dr Ross Wilkins (Research Associate), Professor Heaven Crawley (Research Professor).

Project Objectives

The HELP Refugee project aims to:

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

In seeking to realise these aims the project will:

  • Expand the evidence base upon which decisions about demand for energy services amongst forcibly displaced communities and humanitarian agencies in Africa and Asia are made; by building up a portfolio of qualitative and quantitative case studies based on primary fieldwork with displaced people, humanitarian workers and energy providers in the Kigeme, Nyabiheke, Gihembe camps in Rwanda and a refugee camp 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 twelve "Design-athons for displacement" workshops in the UK, Rwanda and Nepal.
  • Design, implement and monitor energy systems for 80 households that connects people, products, processes and policies in Rwanda and Nepal. The beneficiaries would be made up of approximately 480 people consisting of 200 children, 180 women, and 100 men. The project aims to work with 80 women for the cooking system (20 from each of the four refugee camps), 80 youths for the mobile lighting system, and 80 households for the microgrid system.
  • Contribute to the scientific knowledge base on energy access, energy demand, energy provision and energy monitoring in contexts of forced displacement and global poverty through ten contributions to peer reviewed academic journals.

Research Impact

The project aims to increase access to affordable and sustainable energy to 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, and by informing future energy policy and practice in the humanitarian sector. The project would enable the scaling and replication of modular energy systems with intelligent supply and demand management integrated with digital business processes to other refugee camps 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's global organisations;
  • existing third sector networks
  • Government
  • Local Energy Challenge Fund -LECF-;


Our dissemination strategy includes:

Society - HELP aims to benefit refugee 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 be able to "HELP" themselves and become agents able to choose, produce, consume and take part in the running of their own communities. The project lays out a direct pathway to impact to society through a series of three 'Design for Displacement (D4D)' and twelve 'Energy for End-users (E4E)" workshops for industry, humanitarian actors and refugee stakeholders. We expect the project to widen the knowledge base of researchers, students, renewable energy specialist, sensors experts, social scientist and digital business entrepreneurs. 

Environment - This 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 website here.