By Elias Hakizimana.
Various experts in energy sector were gathered in Kigali Convention Center on May 16, 2018 to discuss ways of scaling up renewable energy to Rwandan refugee camps to support humanitarianism and well-being of the refugees.
The discussions of this initiative were held yesterday in Kigali to look on the €10 million “Renewable energy for refugee” project initiated by Practical Action in partnership with United Nations High Commission of Refuges (UNHCR).
Participants to the discussions included the private sector who currently sell viable technologies for renewable energy, local and international organizations, donors and Government to find together feasible strategies for the project’s implementation.
Denyse Umubyeyi, Project Manager of Practical Action in Rwanda said they need to build sustainable renewable energy market systems that will enable refugees to work and be economically independent.
The project will focus on refugees needs and activities and give them different types of renewable energy at household, community and enterprise level accordingly.
“Together with refugees and stakeholders, we looked at all existing renewable energy technologies and we are in the process of choosing the most effective ones to replace some of the existing technologies which have bad healthy, economic and environmental effects,” Umubyeyi said.
The technologies that will be put in place will also support Agriculture sector, energy sector, water and sanitation as well as cross cutting issues such as combating disasters, protecting environment, market systems and will spread the knowledge to other people on behalf of its sustainability.
The project is part of Practical Action growing humanitarian energy work. It draws from experience in Kenya and Burkina Faso in terms of research and implementation.
The project will respond to two main challenges; one being cooking strategy and gender based violence caused by darkness in the refugee camp premises especially when people go to the toilets.
The €10 million fund will be used in building sustainable systems for renewable energy by facilitating current renewable energy owners and the private sector to sell the services in the refugee camps. It will also facilitate in training refugees on the technologies that will be chosen for implementation.
Owen Grafham, Department Manager of Energy, Environment and Resources Department in Chatham House in Rwanda said that they have been working with UNHCR, UN Refugee council, Practical Action and Energy for impact for the last four years to try to improve energy access and humanitarian initiatives for refugees and the house communities surrounding them.
He said that energy is not given equal level with other humanitarian needs and priorities within humanitarian settings. “This means energy was completely left out, so, this is a critical situation and something has to change, we have to think much better about energy contribution solutions,”
Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen, Head of Humanitarian Energy at Practical Action said further activities will be done in this regard. “For the first six months we did analytical assessment to look at the project viability and in the next three and half years, we will avail energy solutions in partnership with the private sector to make sure there is a market place. Furthermore, we will be helping people to help themselves in improving livelihoods and have access to sustainable renewable energy,” said Rosenberg.
Debonheur Jeanne d’Arc, Minister for Disasters and Refugees (MIDMAR) said “In refugee context I believe this round table is very relevant for us because finding sustainable energy solutions enables us to deliver on our mandates and when it comes to energy compromises the basic foundations of our mandates, we also believe that in getting sustainable energy solutions we will be able to have the refugees and household community to have sustainable livelihoods,” said
She said that basic needs will also be met like source of energy for cooking and will give out significant impacts.
“Because using firewood has effect to cleaner solutions and impacts our health and environment. The second reason why this round table discussion is particularly relevant and useful for us is that the government of Rwanda has agreed to be part of comprehensive refugee response framework which means a lot for us moving from humanitarian to development, and we believe this round table will also serve as a basis of giving us, the Government of Rwanda the tool of working together to address the issue of sustainable energy,” De Bonheur said.
“This will give us an opportunity to learn from you the experts, regarding what are the national priorities of Rwanda, it will help us with UNHCR Team with our partners to implement energy solutions in a sustainable manner and to deliver on our mandate, so,” she added.
Every year, Kigeme refugee camp uses 10,092 cubic meters (m3) of fire woods, Nyabiheke uses 5,522 cubic meters while Gihembe Refugee camp uses 6,396 cubic meters.
Debonheur highlighted that such fire wood consumption takes away many hectares of forests resulting to the natural disasters.
Reducing charcoal burning
The Renewable energy for refugee project will reduce stove cooking from 52 percent to 48% in by 2014 to expand the energy sector and it will be achieved with efforts of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) to sustain the sector priorities projection.
Robert Nyamvumba, the Energy Division Manager at the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) in his presentation about the overview of current energy sector in Rwanda said that the government is increasing renewable energy to ensure universal access to modern energy services in line with the country’s 2020 target.
Nyamvumba noted that the country wants to improve cooking technologies by reducing charcoal burning that causes air pollution.
“We have reviewed the policy to attain this by 2024, we have now 24 energy companies including Inyenyeri and BBOX that are operational and in collaboration with them, we will ensure that every Rwandan use green cooking technologies,” he said.
The highlights of the African Development Banks’s official embarked on financial constrains for the move where she said that banks are not directly supportive to SMEs working in energy sector, the issue that hinders the progress of the goal number 7 of the sustainable development goas (SDGs) within the African agenda 2063 to improve energy efficiency.
The AFDB mentioned that only 590 million people in Africa have access to energy, adding that the energy sector looks on banks funding in energy investments to expand the on-grids, off-grids, distribution, generation and technical support which will all be financed by AFDB’s $12 billion.
The project started in September 2017 with the first and second phase now and the actual implementation that proceeds will start in June 2018. It will reach out over 50,000 refugees in Gihembe, Kigeme and Nyabiheke refugee camps and community households through delivering renewable energy technologies.
Elias Hakizimana @theinspirerpubl