21 December, 2023 Member article

acciona.org Foundation brings clean energy to more than 6,000 refugees in Ethiopia with the Spanish humanitarian initiative “Alianza Shire”

Madrid, 13 December 2023 Alianza Shire ─the first multi-actor partnership for humanitarian action in Spain─ is bringing access to electricity to the homes and the communal facilities of the refugee communities and their host communities at Dollo Ado, a remote area in the south of Ethiopia without access to basic infrastructure.

Alianza Shire is formed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid through its Innovation and Technology for Development Centre (itdUPM), acciona.org Foundation, Signify and Iberdrola, and it has the collaboration of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The project it carries out at Dollo Ado is bringing access to the electricity basic service, through solar home systems, to the homes of about 6,500 persons at Hilaweyn, a village bordering Somalia where there is one of the refugee camps of the area.

The home electricity service delivery model ─designed to last in the long term─ is planned to end its implementation in the first quarter of 2024 and it will benefit about 17,000 persons when the installation of the total of 2,000 systems planned will be ended.

An experience-based model

The model developed is based on the experience of the acciona.org Foundation with its rural electrification initiative Light at Home, implemented in different countries where acciona.org has also had the collaboration of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and co funding from AECID.

Macarena Romero, coordinator of Alianza Shire at the AECID offices at Addis Ababa, states that this initiative “shows the feasibility of developing models to bring access to reliable, clean, lasting electricity services to meet the needs of refugee population”“The management model set in Dollo Ado” highlights Romero “allows, from the beginning, the involvement of the beneficiaries, the local organizations and the regional government. For Alianza Shire, applying a delivery model tailored to the context is the key to ensure both the accessibility and the sustainability of what is built”.

Cristina Ruiz, manager of the area of Energy at acciona.org, explains: “We have contributed with our knowledge to develop a solution tailored to the refugee communities and the host communities at Hilaweyn, as we are specialised in bringing access to electricity to homes in complex environments through our global initiative ‘Light at Home’. Using solar home systems to provide electricity, we apply a sustainable & affordable service model that involves different actors being relevant in the area to ensure that service in the long term”.

The long-term sustainability of this model is ensured thanks to the commitment of organizations working in the area, such as the NGO Save the Environment Ethiopia (SEE), the Hilaweyn Energy Cooperative Murukmale, the Ethiopia Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS), the local authorities, and the population living in the refugee camps and the host communities.

Thanks to the co funding from the European Union, innovative models of access to the electricity basic service will be implemented up to have reached about 55,000 persons in total benefited, with also street lighting and communal systems, in refugee communities and host communities.

In the first quarter of 2024, the installation of a solar street lighting system, designed and implemented by Signify, is planned to meet the needs of about 38,000 persons in the refugee camp and the host community of Kobe.

In addition, a microgrid coordinated by Iberdrola is being developed to bring service to almost 9,500 persons at Kobe. This microgrid will be started up in the first months of 2024 and it will be operated in a similar way to a PV community energy project.

Also benefitting the host communities

The inclusion of the communities hosting the refugee camps ─such as Hilaweyn which is one of the settlements that receive thousands of Somalis fleeing from conflicts aggravated by recurrent draughts─ is essential to ensure the integration of the refugees and alleviate the stress of resources that are usually scarce in the communities where they settle.

Ethiopia hosts generously more than 900,000 refugees in 24 camps, however the level of funding of UNHCR operations in these refugee camps is about 34% of needed.

Despite the transitory nature of the refugee camps, on many occasions they become permanent solutions that present several shortages of coverage and services due to the insufficient funding.

According to the last UNHCR’s ‘Forced Displacement in 2022 Global Trends’ report, more than 110 million people around the world flee from their homes due to conflict, persecution and violation of human rights. More than 60% of that fled population live in countries that are especially vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change effects.

Alianza Shire

Alianza Shire was selected by UNHCR as a good practice in the first Global Refugee Forum that took place at Geneva in December 2019. It is the most important international meeting, where, every four years, governments, private sector, academia, civil society and other many actors bring together to share positive experiences and search for both solutions and specific commitments to favour refugee population and their host communities. Four years later, when the second forum is taking place, this multi-actor partnership is still contributing to improve the lives of refugee population and local population in Ethiopia, through their access to energy.

In 2024, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid through its Innovation and Technology for Development Centre (itdUPM), acciona.org Foundation, Signify and Iberdrola, in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), formed the first multi-actor partnership for humanitarian action in Spain to bring energy solutions to refugee population in Shire, in the Tigray region in the north of Ethiopia. Some years later they decided to continue the work in partnership, and they are bringing access to energy to refugee population and local population in Dollo Ado, in the Somali region in the south of Ethiopia.

acciona.org Foundation