A Global Plan of Action - Background Paper: Data, Evidence, Monitoring and Reporting

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Why is Data and Evidence Important for Energy for Displaced People?

Delivering sustainable energy for displaced people is a relatively new area: as projects and programmes scale-up reliable data, hard evidence and clear monitoring and evaluation approaches are essential. Both to ensure that the energy needs and aspirations of displaced people are placed at the centre of humanitarian response, and also to facilitate long-term sustainable approaches for humanitarian organisations that make the best use of available resources. In this paper, the data and evidence needs of the sector are explored to start a discussion on how to provide clear and timely evidence for energy in humanitarian settings.

Delivering universal energy access by 2030 and meeting Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) requires meeting the energy needs of everyone, including displaced people. However, displaced people were not often included in national or international planning. The inclusion of data on displaced people in the Global Tracking Framework (2017) is a major step forward in drawing attention to the evidence needs in this area, but it is just a start. 

Detailed evidence is critical for decision-makers to be able to deliver sustainable energy as part of humanitarian programmes and projects. Working in this area is also important to be able to understand how people use energy as part of a highly complex humanitarian system. Without good information and clear data, humanitarian agencies, NGOs and local governments will be unable to respond effectively. The energy needs of displaced people will not be understood, nor will community priorities be incorporated into decision-making. In addition to this, markets and private-sector suppliers will not have the information they need to invest in humanitarian energy projects or work with other organisations to develop market-based solutions. Data is critical for all these reasons, as without good evidence programmes will struggle to be successful and action on humanitarian energy will find it difficult to achieve global change.

Problem Analysis: What are the Challenges we are Facing?

The scale of the challenge faced is considerable, as to date there is:

  • A lack of general data and readily available information, and limited specific evidence on the issues or in-depth studies that compare cross-cutting issues or regional evidence.
  • Very few detailed studies on the impacts of existing energy programmes in displaced settings, including data from monitoring, learning and the knowledge emerging from those programmes.
  • Inadequate training for practitioners, field staff or researchers on existing evidence and tools.
  • A lack of standardised or published information: where data is available, for example from pilots and start-up projects, it is not consistent or available openly. Each pilot often has its own set of indicators and reporting structures, making it difficult to compare evidence across programmes.
  • Insufficient learning from existing programmes, as information is often not published or made available to other practitioners.


Evidence is lacking across several areas, including new research needed on specific information on technological solutions and how different business models could and do work, baseline data on the energy needs of displaced populations and their host communities, how much energy costs and who pays for it in refugee camps, and accurate information on how much energy is provided currently in many camps and informal settlements. As well as new primary research, there is a need for clear knowledge, training and learning opportunities so that new information can be used by decision-makers. For example, while some tools and methodologies for data collection do already exist, (for example D-Lab tools), decision-makers are often not aware of these or trained in how to use them.

While only a few examples of evidence in this area exist, research has been done in recent years to understand the lack of energy in humanitarian settings: it is now increasingly accepted that currently the energy needs of millions of displaced people are being met inadequately or not at all (Lahn and Grafham, 2015). For example, some initial analysis and evidence gathering has been done by the MEI, Bellanca 2014, Gunning 2014, Lehne et al 2016, and Grafham 2016. There are also several new academic research programmes emerging in this area on quantitative data and sensor measurement, as well as the new Energy COP Community of Practice hosted by the SAFE initiative.

There is a considerable need for new information and evidence in humanitarian energy, the table below has been complied to suggest some specific areas for open discussion. Many of these areas are already topics of considerable research in the broader energy access sector, so could learn from those analysis and approaches to understand issues specifically in contexts of displacement.

Possible Data Gap

Potential New Data and Evidence Area for Humanitarian Energy

Energy technologies

-   Appropriateness of technologies solar street lights, solar lanterns, or solar cooking stoves options for  renewable biomass and biogas, wind generators, micro-hydro, geothermal, and waste recycling

-   How communities perceive and use kerosene or traditional biomass and firewood within different country contexts

-   Possibilities of smart micro-grids for humanitarian use

-   What are the barriers to delivering decentralized clean energy services at scale and how information, business models and innovative financing can address developing country energy access gaps

Productive use and income generating opportunities

-   How energy access can improve economic opportunities

-   How energy is used by businesses and in informal trade mechanisms

Community resilience and inclusive participation

-   How communities adapt and use energy resources currently in different contexts

-   Inclusive participation and how beneficiary co-design can be developed: What tools and mechanisms are available to incorporate beneficiaries into the planning and provision of renewable energy service provision in refugee settings?

-   Understanding the ethnographic evidence base for displaced communities and behavioral change opportunities

Infrastructure systems and institutional use

-   Processes and infrastructure systems in refugee camp settlements

-   Political economy analysis of humanitarian sustainable energy policy and practice

-   Institutional power, systems, and renewable energy supply options in refugee camps

Energy for health, education, protection and SGBV needs

-   Negative health impacts of cooking in refugee settings

-   Evidence on the connection between energy and sexual violence against women

-   Energy for power schools, health centers, administrative building and for street lighting

-   Understanding the link between energy and gender in displaced settings.

-   Energy and protection, gender  issues and SGBV

Environmental impacts

-   CO2 and emissions levels from current energy use

-   Data on the negative environmental impacts diesel, kerosene, and reduce the high costs associated with conventional generation in camp settings

Monitoring and evaluating

-   Tools and methodologies for M+E for energy programmes for humanitarian settings

Knowledge, learning and skills training

-   Specific training and knowledge sharing within practitioner, researcher, academic and field staff communities

Key Stakeholders – Who is Involved in this Working Area and Who Can Support Solving the Problems?

Working with partners is key to delivering vital data, evidence, monitoring and evaluation processes that meet the energy needs of displaced people in a safe, sustainable manner. There is an urgent need for multi-year humanitarian planning and research that addresses both the immediate and long-term needs of vulnerable people. Multiple partnerships and modes of engagement will be necessary to deliver innovative research and evidence to understand the extent of the problem and identify challenges and potential solutions. To deliver substantial results of for this area, it is essential to facilitate collaboration between emergency responders and the energy community. Evidence must be delivered where it is needed, when it is needed, and convene actors throughout both the emergency and development sectors to support vulnerable people more effectively during short-term crises and with longer-term challenges. This working group of the conference is actively seeking to work with emergency responders and actors from across the humanitarian sector to adopt a collaborative approach and share knowledge and experience, including:


  • Emergency relief agencies, medium-term development actors, first on the scene responders, and the wider humanitarian community: who often need detailed data and analysis to support their projects and programmes
  • International, national and local NGOs: who are key suppliers of baseline data and communicators with displaced and local populations.
  • Researchers and academics: who can provide much needed evidence and methodologies for approaching problems, monitoring and evaluation needs.
  • Governments and international development donors: who fund and support research, evidence and data collection.
  • Technology developers and private sector entrepreneurs: who are critical participants and suppliers in the evidence chain
  • Refugees, displaced people, local and host communities, and on the ground actors: who should be at the heart of any data collection, evidence building, research and assessments.

The World Humanitarian Summit emphasised the importance of an inclusive model of humanitarian aid, suggesting one way of doing this is to focus on the affected communities and enhancing local capacities. Inclusive approaches need to engage displaced people as more than ‘beneficiaries’, partnering with them as actors to be directly involved in response programming by working through alternative models for involving displaced people as consumers and participants (Practical Action 2018, forthcoming). Inclusive approaches should also be extended both to private sector and market players within the energy sector who have the capacity to be involved in the supply of energy services for displaced people.

Outlining Options: What is Needed to Solve these Problems

There are many options and areas of research for data and evidence on energy for displaced people. A first step in the short-term would be to understand what information is needed along the evidence chain: from understanding the issues, to the start-up and commencement of programmes, to designing suitable interventions, through to implementation, monitoring and evaluating change. A next step could be to develop integrated planning and assessment tools for humanitarian energy, which might combine current sources of data, with participatory energy market activities, and inclusive survey and data development with displaced and host communities. There are several sources of data and best practice toolkits already exist and could be adapted. For example, members of theEnergyCOP working group, who have produced new toolkits and resources for understanding humanitarian energy needs. There are also examples detailed surveys using participatory engagement methods for energy in camps in Burkina Faso and Kenya (MEI 2016).

Data and evidence must be developed alongside clear knowledge sharing, training and learning opportunities to ensure that new information can be used by decision-makers. In the long-term, it is hoped that the sector will be able take the data, evidenced and lessons of energy access practice and humanitarian action, and develop them within a broad geographic horizon to enhance development outcomes, scale-up impact, inform national and international policy, and provide evidence for humanitarian actors.


Concrete Questions: What are Key Questions as a Basis for the Discussion in Berlin?

Facilitating collective access to data of high quality, streamlined analysis and evidence-based policy options is vital to objectively inform countries and all stakeholders in their decision-making on policy, implementation or monitoring of progress. Concrete questions under this strategic area will focus on developing standardized processes for collection and reporting of disaggregated data on fuel use, energy practices and costs. The priority will be to specify and define the necessary data requirements, and to develop practical processes for effectively capturing and analysing the data. Lessons learnt and best practices will be documented and widely disseminated, to provide quality information that can help future planning and programming. The table above provides some initial suggestions of areas of research and evidence needed in the humanitarian energy sector, and below are some key questions that could be used for starting discussions during the Berlin conference:

  • What data is essential for analysis of energy intervention options and understanding needs?
  • What evidence base is required for directing decision-makings and informing choices?
  • What are the key areas for new research and evidence on humanitarian energy?
  • Where are the sources of specialist energy sector knowledge of cost effective, off-grid energy technologies for low income households, communities and enterprises?
  • What data is needed to prepare the ground for economically viable solutions, implemented by the private sector?
  • Are there existing case studies and practical in-country experience that evidence can be drawn from?
  • What are the possibilities for co-creating knowledge with refugee communities and rural communities?
  • How can we understand the system requirements and barriers the complex issues underpinning humanitarian planning?
  • What are the sources of funding and opportunities for collaboration on future data and evidence gathering?
  • How is it possible to create meaningful and measurable indicators of performance and impact?
  • How can we achieve responsible reporting, including integrating failures and learning?
  • What information is needs for reporting and use of knowledge to inform ongoing programming decisions?


Further Information on the Global Plan of Action

For more information or if you would like to be involved in the working groups, please contact energy@unitar.org. If you would like to be notified about major developments relating to the Global Plan of Action, please sign up for the SAFE mailing list. For community discussions, we have set up a discussion forum on ENERGYCoP – a dedicated community of practice for stakeholders engaged in humanitarian energy.


This background paper was written by Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen: Practical Action and University of Oxford, for Berlin Conference on “Energy for Displaced People: A Global Plan of Action for sustainable energy solutions in situations of displacement".  January 2018.

  • Bellanca, R (2014) Sustainable Energy Provision Among Displaced Populations: Policy and Practice. Chatham House. Online.
  • Global Tracking Framework (2017) Sustainable Energy for All Global Tracking Framework: Progress toward Sustainable Energy 2017 Report. Box 2.7 on p46, p55, box 3.5 on p56. Online.
  • Gunning, R. (2014) Sustainable Energy Provision for Displaced Populations. Chatham House. Online.
  • Lahn, G. and Grafham, O. (2015) Heat, Light and Power for Refugees Saving Lives, Reducing Costs. Online.
  • Lehne, L. et al (2016) Energy services for refugees and displaced people. Energy Strategy Reviews 13–14. Online.
  • Grafham, O. et al (2016) Energy solutions with both humanitarian and development pay-offs. Forced Migration Review; Oxford Iss. 52. Online.
  • MEI (2016) Moving Energy Initiative Resources and Toolkits. Online.  
  • Practical Action (2018, forthcoming) Sustainable Humanitarian Energy Services: Inclusive participation, lessons learnt and paths forward. Energy Policy Briefing Series. Online.