Aid groups are eying solar energy as a possible replacement for diesel generators in areas in need of rebuilding, such as Syria where fuel is costly and unreliable. In some cases, sabotaging fuel supplies in this region has been used as a weapon of war.
By Lin Taylor Thomson Reuters Foundation for the Christian Science Monitor
heap, reliable, and hard to hijack, the sun could be an ideal energy source in many war zones and disaster areas, prompting aid agencies to consider ditching costly fuel for solar power.
While the technology has not advanced far enough to make a full swap viable, some solar projects are already underway in the field and aid workers expect many more to follow.
“It’s very easy to exploit the fuel chain and it happens in a number of big emergencies. It’s too easy to nick. There’s a lot of bad practice around making money out of fuel,” said Andy Bastable, head of Oxfam’s water and sanitation projects.
Traditional fuel can be used as a weapon, hijacked by militants, sold on the black market, or must be flown vast distances to reach off-grid relief camps, increasing costs and volatility for the hard-pressed aid sector.
And the sun shines in most areas where they work.
“In 90 percent of cases, we are acting in places where there is abundant solar supply,” said Per-Erik Eriksson, an engineer with medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
“To avoid logistical challenges and over time, to save costs, [solar energy] would certainly be a very good solution in most of our projects,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.