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Elpis Solar

Next-generation off-grid solar solutions to enable refugees to provide essential services and connectivity within their communities.

Photo of samuel kellerhals
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Elpis Solar (Greek for “Hope”) was born out of a response to the influx of refugees who have been arriving in Europe since 2015. Large numbers have ended up in camps lacking essential services such as electricity, information and clean drinking water. Our vision is to empower refugees around the world to lead a prosperous life wherever they go, re-instilling hope for their future. That is why we have developed next-generation off-grid solar-tech solutions that catalyse the transformation of stagnant refugee communities into places of opportunity and growth. Our solutions are operated by refugees who enable essential services in their communities through our devices (water filtration, mobile phone charging, digital services and light). We have developed two off-grid solar systems, a mobile phone charging system (SolarHub), and a charging system that also provides water filtration (Swapcy). The SolarHub powers 3600 phones per month, and Swapcy filters up to 9000 litres of water per month as well as charging 1200 phones and providing light in the evenings. Furthermore, all of our units include an integrated offline educational content platform that is made available via a local WiFi hotspot. This ‘Digital-Hub’ currently contains over 250GB of educational content in French and English (complete copies of Wikipedia sorted by subject, over 40,000 e-books, TEDx videos, interactive science games and others). Now anyone with a WiFi-capable phone can access this information without needing a connection to the internet. The introduction of our solar systems into refugee camps provides a direct way to foster civic engagement, as all our units are operated and maintained by refugees who then enable these essential services in their communities. Most recently we have worked with UNHCR, and the Rwandan Ministry of Refugees to provide entrepreneurial and business training to a cohort of refugees in Mahama Camp (the biggest one of its kind in Rwanda).

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Refugee camps today, particularly in Africa are often unelectrified, with poor infrastructure and no opportunities for employment, education and civic engagement. In particular, Rwanda currently hosts more than 173,000 refugees in 6 main camps. We visited three camps (Gihembe, Mahama, Kigeme), which all did not have adequate access to electricity, clean water, education and employment. These problem statements also hold true across refugee camps in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Our goal is for refugees in Rwandan refugee camps and eventually around the world to become self-sufficient and be able to enable essential services within their own communities. We aim to start by deploying 12 units (6 Solar Hub & 6 Swapcy) across three Rwandan refugee camps, whilst providing entrepreneurship and business training to 12 solar entrepreneurs. In the short-term this will result in thousands of litres of clean water every month along with access to free educational content and electricity for mobile phones, all provided by our solar entrepreneurs. In 2 - 3 years we will have empowered hundreds of refugees to run their own businesses and become self-sufficient. After 5 years, in many camps the social dynamics will have changed, and refugee camps will become areas of opportunity rather than of frustration and poverty.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Entec S.A. Provides solar-powered modules, technical and logistical support. As our closest working partner, Entec S.A provides these components and has over 30 years of experience in the Greek energy sector. Challenges Worldwide Challenges have been supporting Elpis to enter the Rwandan market through short-term work including, market assessments, business development, training and mentoring of local volunteers in liaison with UNHCR and state authorities in Mahama Camp. They researched needs on the ground from January until April 2018, also conducted literature reviews and online research using UNHCR data and documentation. In order to help us scale our solutions within Rwanda, we seek to enter a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rwandan Ministry for Refugees. Furthermore, we envision to become a key partner of UNHCR to help them deliver critical essential services at the initial phase of refugee settlement formation.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

Elpis Solar

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are students

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State


1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh

Hi Samuel great to have your idea on the platform for the challenge. It's exciting and I really like your idea. As the ideas phase comes to an end today the 17th of August, we would encourage you to again have a look at the evaluation criteria here

Also, it will be exciting for your to check out other ideas on the platform, provide some feedback and explore potential areas of collaboration with them, especially if you are not registered in your country yet. For example check out the Migration Lab Program