EPFL student creates “smart energy” for refugee camps

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Refugee camps could soon become safer and more comfortable for residents thanks to the work on energy of one student at EPFL, Lausanne’s polytechnic. Hamed Ziade is one of the first graduates students in EPFL’s new master’s programme in energy management and sustainability (he finishes in October). He has been working closely with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency in Geneva, to develop Campow, a tool with which demand for electricity can be predicted for every hour of the day in refugee camps.

“In refugee camps, electricity helps reduce violence and it extends working hours, allowing the youth to study when the sun goes down and promoting the pursuit of livelihood activities,” he notes. Ziade’s main objective was to find out how much power was being consumed in refugee camps to help the UNHCR provide refugees with a clean and reliable source of power.

Story continues below.

EPFL describes his work:

“Solar panels produce most electricity when the sun is strongest, but refugees need it predominantly during the hours of darkness. Matching electricity supply and demand calls for a new generation of refugee camps. Inspired by the notion of smart cities, ‘Smart refugee camps’ could be designed based on innovative technologies allowing camps to manage themselves in terms of energy, by combining renewable energy production, consumption monitoring, and energy storage. Ziade’s work represents a first step in that direction.

‘Hamed’s work with UNHCR also comes at a time where the importance of energy access is being increasingly acknowledged, and coincides with the development of a UNHCR Strategy for Access to Energy, which will support the design of new approaches to meeting energy needs in refugee camps,’ says Dr Gebre Egziabher who supervised Ziade’s project at UNHCR.

Ziade comes from Lebanon, a country faced with an influx of refugees following the crisis in Syria. There, he co-founded a social charity and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the American University of Beirut.”