Powering Peace: Renewable Energy in Conflict-Affected Countries Victoria Holt, Distinguished Fellow, sTimson Center

Roughly a billion people worldwide are impacted by the overlap of conflict, climate change, and energy scarcity. International humanitarian and peace operations are deployed to address such fragility, provide relief, and strengthen peace.

We believe the positive work of humanitarian operations can be maximized by changing how they use energy, both in the near term and for the future of the communities they serve.

Conflict, Energy, and Climate

Over 850 million people live in the 27 countries that are most affected by conflict/fragility, low access to energy, and climate change -- primarily in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia (Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan), and Haiti.

Costly & global

From South Sudan to Syria, the international community is stretched, spending roughly $35 billion in 2016 alone on humanitarian aid and UN peacekeeping operations.

These missions often deploy to countries with poor electrification and rely on diesel generators for power. This can have unintended consequences, however, and adversely impact economic, security, political, and environmental objectives.

The existing approach warrants a fresh look.

Smarter investment

We estimate that these missions spend roughly a billion dollars annually on energy. While global energy trends support greater use of renewable, sustainable power, much of the UN system is not yet able or designed to make that shift.

That is why the Stimson Center and Energy Peace Partners have launched Powering Peace, a joint research and education initiative to look at leveraging economic and climate solutions to support peace in the world’s most fragile regions.

Making the Shift

Powering Peace will research the energy practice of field operations and policies to see what could be modernized at the headquarters and field level, identify incentives and disincentives, and map out the short- and longer-term costs and benefits.

We will also conduct field work and case studies to access the role energy plays in fragile states, the practice around energy provision, and whether, where and how renewable energy can support peacebuilding.

Energy + Security Impact

Powering Peace aims to support the United Nations and international agencies in facilitating a clean energy transition in a timely and predictable manner, a shift that could deliver important benefits. We believe this could:

  • Increase efficiency and save money at a time when the demand for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations is outpacing resources.
  • Enhance security for missions and communities by reducing dependence on diesel fuel with treacherous supply chains.
  • Introduce economically sustainable energy infrastructure in the least electrified places.
  • Reduce pollution, decrease carbon emissions, and mitigate the environmental impact of field operations.
  • Provide local communities with improved energy access and related benefits,
  • Create new building blocks for sustainable peace in fragile settings.


Powering Peace is pursuing partnership and advisory relationships in economic modeling, energy investment, technology, and development.

Project Team:

  • Victoria K. Holt, Distinguished Fellow: vholt@stimson.org.
  • Madeline Vellturo, Research Analyst
  • Dave Mozersky, Non-Resident Fellow & President of Energy Peace Partners.
  • Sherwin Das, Managing Director of Energy Peace Partners
Project Lead Victoria Holt has 25 years of policy and practical experience in peace operations, the UN, and conflict prevention.

This project is an initiative of the Stimson Center and Energy Peace Partners, spearheaded by Victoria K. Holt, a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center focused on conflict prevention and peace operations, the United Nations and Security Council, protection of civilians, crisis regions, and U.S. policy-making.

Prior to joining Stimson, Holt was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs from 2009 to 2017.


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