Solarising humanitarian operations

Kube Energy is piloting an innovative solar service model for providing clean and affordable electricity to the Humanitarian Hub in Malakal to improve the humanitarian response.

Humanitarian operations normally take place in hard to reach areas where infrastructure is sparse and logistics is a core challenge to delivering aid. To maintain efficient operations, humanitarian organisations have been forced to produce their own electricity to power their activities and offices. Because they lack technical expertise and investment capital, they have traditionally relied on diesel generators which are cheap to buy and easy to install. The problem is that they require constant maintenance and a steady supply of fuel, which is expensive in the long run.

While households and businesses in developed countries have had access to renewable energy solutions from big companies such as Tesla, SunRun and Vivint Solar, no such options have been available in countries like South Sudan or Somalia. As a result, the costs of power for humanitarian organisations are the highest in the world, often 10-15 times the price in Europe or North America.

To address this problem, we are looking to develop a tailor made leasing solution for humanitarian operations. We are using a big humanitarian base in Malakal, South Sudan as a pilot case and transitioning the base to get more than 90% of its energy from solar power. This means that the overall power costs faced by humanitarian organisations will fall by 50% over a 10 year period, or save nearly $500,000 per year. This is funding that can be redirected towards populations that are in dire need of assistance.

To do this we have to design a suitable solar power plant, that will be integrated by a large energy bank and a diesel generator. This will be the biggest of it’s kind in UN operations globally. Secondly, we need to develop a contracting model that is tailored to the UN rules and regulations. This is important to increase the scalability of the project to other locations. Finally, the installation will be installed and operated. In this last step, we will emphasise the engagement of the local community and use the project to increase their knowledge and capacity to design, install and maintain solar power systems.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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