Ensuring Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All

A person hangs a light in a temporary pop-up canopy filled with solar electrical equipment.

Mapping energy saving solutions across Bidibidi refugee camp, Uganda

Today, 860 million people still lack access to reliable electricity and 2.6 billion people live without access to clean cooking facilities. These are basic requirements to overcoming poverty. The communities Mercy Corps works with are disproportionately reliant on natural resources for livelihoods and the least able to access energy. If the energy challenge is left unaddressed, communities will face multiple adverse consequences, that are further amplified by poverty and climate change. Therefore we see access to clean energy services as a necessary condition for sustainable development and as a vital cross-cutting issue that underpins the achievement of many other Sustainable Development Goals. By increasing access to and use of sustainable, affordable and reliable energy services, we can increase the resilience of communities and ecosystems to climate change through reduced reliance on natural resources, create new employment opportunities across a range of ‘green’ value chains, and promote low carbon development worldwide.

Mercy Corps’ approach to climate change mitigation and inclusive access to energy is rooted in innovative, market-based energy programming that both reduces emissions and supports resilient livelihoods. We apply our expertise in harnessing the power of market systems and good governance to scale solutions that enable communities to access the technology, information, financial tools, and the social support they need to adapt, and ultimately transform their access to reliable, clean, affordable energy in the face of a changing climate.

Under the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) funded Accessing Markets through Private Sector Enterprises for Refugees Energy (AMPERE) programme, Mercy Corps, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and Save the Children leveraged their ongoing programming to strengthen linkages with private sector actors to improve reliable access to energy for displaced people and local community members. By facilitating the introduction of private sector energy providers into the Bidibidi refugee settlement we were able to bridge the gap between demand and supply of quality, affordable energy services and equipment at the household, small business and institutional level while collecting market data around the appropriateness of energy related pay-as-you-go systems in refugee settings. This enabled us to test, prove and build evidence for quality market-driven energy access solutions in humanitarian response programming.

To support more targeted, research-led interventions, a major component of AMPERE was gaining an in-depth understanding of the existing energy market in Bidibidi. Therefore, in February 2020, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) carried out a community mapping exercise across the Bidibidi Refugee settlement. From this, an interactive map of the energy saving solutions retailers was created to better understand the state of energy saving solutions available to refugees as well as relevant market trends and challenges associated with accessing and purchasing these solutions. 

Realities of life without access to energy

In collaboration with refugees and host community members in Bidibidi, HOT led extensive data collection activities, gathering information from energy saving solution retailers about where they purchased their products from; what their available stock consisted of; and the biggest challenges they faced in selling these products to the refugee and host populations. Once these data collection activities were completed, the information was compiled and shared with AMPERE project partners and implementers to better understand the accessibility and availability of energy solutions in the settlement in order to more effectively target interventions linking potential customers with the clean energy providers as well as increase the awareness and use of such products. The hope is that other humanitarian practitioners can use this data to build a picture of the current energy market in Bidibidi and inform improvements in energy access programming in the Bidibidi settlement.