April 1, 2021 – Lifeline and Power-Blox have launched a collaborative, multi-year Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge project to improve sustainable energy access in humanitarian contexts, starting in the Kiryandongo and Rwamwanja refugee settlements of Uganda. Together, the partners will work with local stakeholders to identify entrepreneurs who will use 50 Power-Blox units to power their own enterprises or to sell electricity as a service.
Uganda currently hosts over 1.4 million refugees, predominantly from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Somalia, among others. In settlements without access to grid power, electricity is most often supplied by diesel and petrol generators, which are both expensive and perpetuate a reliance on fossil fuels. Combining the simplicity of a solar home system with the electrical power of an easily scalable mini-grid, the partners will introduce the Power-Blox model to affordably and flexibly meet community needs for electricity. The learnings gathered from this initial stage will aid Lifeline and Power-Blox in adjusting the model to meet energy needs for other refugee settlements in Uganda and across the globe. Worldwide, UNHCR estimates 80 million individuals have been forcibly displaced from their home countries.
“The energy situation for the 80 million refugees worldwide is catastrophic and the average time a refugee spends in a settlement is 17 years,” says Power-Blox Chief Technical Officer Alessandro Medici. “If we manage with this project to bring some light into these dark 17 years of some refugees, it is already a great start.”
Lifeline’s Global Program Manager Alison Filler notes that this is a turning point in the organization’s 15-year history of humanitarian energy work. “Today marks a new day for Lifeline,” she says. “As our first project in the solar space, we are taking a new approach to the intersection of three critical goals in this project: 1) offering affordable access to electricity; 2) supporting refugees to earn income; and 3) reducing reliance on fuel sources that degrade the environment. Our teams will be working directly with local entrepreneurs, so I am excited to learn how the communities prefer to allocate these Power-Blox to meet their energy needs.”
Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge is a partnership of USAID, The UK Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and Global Affairs Canada, with support from Grand Challenges Canada.
Power-Blox is an award winning Swiss company developing disruptive electrification solutions for off-grid applications in Europe, Asia and Africa. Learn more about their work on their website here.
To learn more about this project, view or download the project one-pager (PDF) here.