Refugee settlements in transition: Energy access and development challenges in Northern Uganda

Elena van Hove, Nathan G. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Energy security and development in refugee settlements is hampered by limited data on the existing energy ecosystem, which is necessary to understand current energy needs and plan short- and long-term energy transitions to self-sustainment. This study addresses the knowledge gap by acquiring primary data from two neighboring refugee settlements, Ayilo I and Ayilo II, in Northern Uganda. A mixed-methods approach obtained data on energy supply and use for households, small- to medium-sized enterprises, and public services. Reduced fuelwood availability in one settlement decreased household wood use by 23.4% relative to the adjacent settlement, and led to households spending an average of 121.8% and 33.5% more per month to purchase wood and charcoal, respectively. Findings indicate current short-term energy decisions are unsustainable and that a move towards using alternative thermal energy sources is needed to reduce the deforestation and lessen tensions with host populations. The study also identifies electricity use in households that primarily consists of cellphones, lighting, and radios, that are best served by solar home systems or charging stations. Electricity demand from small- to medium-sized enterprises is rising to follow aspirations of business owners to expand services offered, whereas energy demand from public services is high with some issues in the reliability of existing power infrastructure. Findings also suggest that hybrid mini-grids can meet the growing demand of small- to medium-sized enterprises, provide reliable power to critical public services, and accommodate for the growth in electricity demand for refugee settings transitioning from temporary, semi-permanent, to permanent settlements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102103
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Energy access
  • Energy poverty
  • Off-grid
  • Refugees
  • Sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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