Alianza Shire brings electricity to refugee camps in Ethiopia

  • The Spain Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Iberian America presented this partnership together with the representatives of its members: Iberdrola, Philips Lighting, the ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECID), the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The Spain Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Iberian America, Fernando Garcia Casas, presided over the presentation of the Alianza Shire, the first public-private partnership of Spain for Humanitarian Action abroad. The Secretary of State was accompanied by the representatives of the Alianza Shire partners: Luis Tejada, Director of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECID); Guillermo Cisneros, Chancellor of the Technical University of Madrid (UPM); Francesca Friz-Prguda, Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Spain; Agustin Delgado, Innovation, Sustainability and Quality Director at Iberdrola; Joaquin Mollinedo, ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation’s Trustee and ACCIONA’s Chief Institutional Relations, Sustainability and Marketing Officer, and; Josep Martinez, General Manager at Philips Lighting Spain & Portugal.

Alianza Shire started in 2014, in the setting of a world with many millions of displaced persons, a large number of them fleeing from their countries; according to UNCHR figures, by the end of 2015 there were more than 65 million displaced persons around the world, and about 21 million of them were refugees who were forced to flee due to persecution, conflict or repression.

It is a multi-stakeholder partnership of three leaders of the private power sector –Iberdrola, Philips Lighting and the ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation- together with the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation (AECID) and the Technical University of Madrid’s Innovation and Technology for Development Centre (itdUPM), that join forces to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to provide energy to refugee and displaced people.

Its first goal has been to implement, with the collaboration of UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a pilot project in Adi-Harush, a refugee camp at Shire, North Ethiopia, where more than 8,000 people from Eritrea live.

This first project has been explained by Rafael de Prado, Head of the Humanitarian Aid Office at AECID, and Carlos Mataix, Director of the itdUPM, during the presentation of this morning.

The problems related to the lack of access to energy in the Adi-Harush camp, which are similar to those in the majority of the refugee camps around the world, were numerous: due to low-quality installations, the electricity service was irregular and harmful; the use of firewood as means of cooking provoked the progressive deforestation of its surroundings, and; in addition, women and girls had to cover increasingly long distances to collect the wood, what rose the risk of suffering sexual attacks in the way.

The pilot project developed by Alianza Shire at this camp, has improved and extended the existing electricity network, and has connected communal services such as the primary school, two markets including 36 small shops, a female attention centre, and a training centre to that network. Street LED lighting has been installed along four kilometres of the camp, and several communal kitchens have been lighted up.

With the objective of consolidating the implemented improvements, Alianza Shire’s members gave training sessions to local technicians. They were refugees and people from the community who are going to be in charge of the equipment operation and maintenance.

This initiative comes from a partnership between different organizations that bring safe energy to people living without guarantee of having access to basic services. It offers solutions that advance towards the compromise with the 2030 Agenda (leaving no one behind). Alianza Shire favours the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in special, number 7 “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” and number 17 “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development”.

A pilot project that could be replicated in other refugee camps

The Director of itdUPM, Carlos Mataix, has highlighted the impact of the lack of having access to energy in the refugee population, during the presentation of Alianza Shire: “In refugee camps, which are the residence of many people for many years, it is normal that life projects and personal progress stop. 90% of people living in the camps do not have an adequate access to electricity, according to Moving Energy initiative’s data”.

The pilot project developed in Ethiopia pretends to be a showcase, with which learning and analysing the complexity of providing refugee camps with access to energy. In addition, this pioneering initiative has been able to present results that expose the importance of this kind of partnerships.

Mataix has added that Alianza Shire provides to the humanitarian community with reports that could be adapted to future interventions: “Alianza Shire is not only a project, but a platform giving knowledge and experience that are useful for the humanitarian system and its actors“, he has explained.

About the Alianza Shire partners


The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) is the bilateral body for development in Spain. The AECID currently works in 30 countries through a network of Technical Cooperation Offices, Cultural and Training Centres. In Ethiopia, AECID has a Technical Cooperation Office in Addis Ababa that has been in operation since 2007. In this partnership AECID will provide institutional support as well as partially project funding.


The Innovation and Technology for Development Centre (itdUPM) is the research centre leading the project. Acting as a partnership broker among the parties involved, itdUPM will work throughout the project to: provide members of the University staff as focal points in the field in the Shire region when necessary; offer different skills from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) through their longstanding tradition of conducting collaborative research with industry, as well as providing appropriate facilities for testing and calibrating equipment.


Iberdrola is a world leader in wind energy and one of the world’s top energy suppliers. The largest social development project in which Iberdrola has participated is “Luz para todos” (Light for All) in Brazil. Iberdrola’s participation in the project is based upon its organizational, technical, logistics and purchasing capacities.

ACCIONA Microenergía Foundation

ACCIONA is a leading company in the development and management of infrastructures, renewable energy, water and services. In November 2008 it created the ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation with the aim of facilitating access to sustainable basic services such as electricity, water and infrastructure for isolated rural areas in developing countries. The core features of FUNDAME’s projects are that they are in line with business strategies, are economically sustainable in the medium term, are focused on isolated rural communities and collaborate with other entities in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Philips Lighting Spain

Philips Lighting, the global leader in lighting products, systems and services, delivers innovations that unlock business value, providing rich user experiences that help improve lives. Serving professional and consumer markets, Philips lead the industry in leveraging the Internet of Things to transform homes, buildings and urban spaces. In 2016 they invest in R&D the 5% of our revenues, bringing innovation in lighting. At the same time, 78% of total Philips Lighting sales are in Green Products.

Implementing partners for the pilot project at Shire (Ethiopia)


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

NRC is an independent humanitarian organisation with around 900 experts from all over the world, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to support the UN and local authorities in humanitarian crises.