Energy in Humanitarian Response: A Case Study on Humanitarian Actors’ Perceptions of Energy during Typhoon Haiyan

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Energy plays an important role in humanitarian response. In disaster-hit areas, energy becomes a rare commodity, along with water, food and shelter. The unavailability of this service hinders the development and resilience building efforts of entire communities in post-disaster situations. However, the value of energy is often overlooked in the humanitarian response system.

To understand how energy needs were met during typhoon Haiyan, this case study solicited information regarding different energy needs and energy-related strategies employed by several international humanitarian organizations through surveys. Using follow-up semi-structured interviews, perceptions on energy in humanitarian response and renewable energy were also gathered.

Results show the high-energy requirements of humanitarian organizations to run field operations and implement humanitarian actions in disaster-affected communities. These organizations have been unable to implement an efficient energy-enabled strategy in their Haiyan response. Upon further analysis of relevant articles and materials, the study finds that this lapse in disaster response initiatives can be attributed to limited information on and systemized structure of energy that is often anchored in the global humanitarian scheme.

Data from the study show that effective energy strategies are not incorporated into humanitarian response and that renewable energy systems are seldom used by humanitarian actors.

Based on the findings of the case study, we recommend stakeholders to:

  • Create a well-resourced working group or identify a specific cluster within the humanitarian cluster system which will ensure that the energy needs of humanitarian actors and disaster-affected communities are adequately and efficiently addressed, and with which the private sector energy providers can closely coordinate and collaborate;

  • Develop a clear operational framework that guides humanitarian actors to integrate energy needs in disaster preparedness and response plans, and that is consistent with the UNHCR Handbook for Emergencies and the Global Strategy for Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE);

  • Develop guidelines, protocols and useful tools that will enable humanitarian actors to integrate energy needs assessments and promote good practices of integrating energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions in response interventions; and

  • Explore collaborative arrangements that will ensure that the energy needs of responding humanitarian actors are prioritized and met during the onset of emergency response. For instance, emergency responders can facilitate agreements with logistics and transport sectors to fly in solar-powered generators and batteries.