Roundtable Workshop: Emerging narratives for sustainable energy in displacement settings

24th May, 2021

On Friday 21st May 2021 our CESET Principle Investigator Professor Vanesa Castán Broto participated in a roundtable with other researchers and practitioners involved in energy projects in situations of displacement as part of the Community Energy Resilience Roundtable Series. The series is hosted by our CESET partner - Dr Long Seng To’s - research fellowship on ‘Enhancing community energy resilience using renewable energy in developing countries’ (a collaboration between Loughborough University, Mzuzu University, Tribhuvan University, BRE and AKTEK, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering).

Displacement occurs when people flee their homes due to armed conflict including civil war, generalized violence, and persecution on the grounds of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or social group, or due to disasters. It can occur across borders or within a country (internal displacement). There were 79.5 million displaced people in the world at the end of 2019 with approximately 26 million refugees, 46 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 4.2 million stateless people, and 4 million asylum seekers living in urban, peri-urban, rural and camp areas (UNHCR, 2020).  This roundtable discussed the energy needs in displacement settings or situations as a whole - inclusive of displaced and host populations, with both household and community-level energy needs.

Sustainable energy and energy access projects in displacement settings are grounded in the current humanitarian aid system. These have focused on providing basic energy services in refugee camps and have predominantly relied on grant and free distribution models. This has limited impact and reach, due to lack of viable long-term energy delivery models and integration with broader energy programmes in the country. Such approaches are also unsuitable for displaced people living in urban areas. New narratives are emerging that address these important issues and also better recognise the role for communities and energy resilience. As the Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy Solutions in Situations of Displacement celebrates its 3rd year anniversary and moves towards the next stage, it is useful to review the progress made in the field of humanitarian energy so far. The roundtable also identified learned lessons from the challenges and successes of past research projects in this area in order to map out emerging narratives that could inspire new approaches.

I was honoured to be invited to particpate in this roundtable as it provided the opportunity to discuss the extent to which current discourses of energy access in humanitarian settings recognise existing capacities and forms of agency, specially for those who live in those conditions 

Vanesa Castán Broto, Professor of Climate Urbanism at the Urban Institute