Samuel Kellerhals and Alexandros Angelopoulos are two second year students studying Environmental & Ecological Sciences with Management at the University of Edinburgh. They have recently created Elpis: a project that aims to provide free electricity for refugees through the use of solar-power using a completely non profit method. They plan to put their model in place on the island of Samos in Greece. Samuel and Alexandros have been chosen to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative conference at the University of California, Berkeley, which will be taking place this week. I met with the creators of this project and asked them questions about Elpis.
What is Project Elpis?
Alexandros: We are trying to provide refugees in Greece – starting with Samos island – with free electricity through a centralised carbon neutral unit. It’s solar powered and we are aiming to provide electricity for 240 people a day to charge their phones.
What is the current refugee situation on Samos?
Samuel: There are a lot of displaced people arriving every day in Samos – around 100-200 people everyday. So what’s happened is that tensions have started to develop between the locals and the refugees – because there is a sort of dependence which the refugees have on the community’s resources […] We want to decrease this dependence by offering the refugees this tool which will generate free electricity for them. It may sound a bit primitive, but around half the refugees don’t have access to electricity on their journey and a lot of what they use it for is their mobile phones […] Mobile phones are extremely important for refugees to navigate, transfer money and to be in touch with their families.
Alexandros: (The government) are trying to implement some EU policies for building hotspots […] we aim to implement the technology in the hotspots.
What made you think of the name for the Project?
Alexandros: Elpis in Greek stands for hope. The refugees don’t know where they are going or what they are going to face but we found that, when we visited Samos, they were all really hopeful about their future. For us, we want to try and make the conditions better.
Samuel: Yes, we want to offer some hope. It’s quite a big statement to offer hope. But I feel that any positive contribution from anyone can bring some happiness or positivity to their day.
What is your prototype model and how did you create it?
Samuel: So when we first applied for the Clinton Global Initiative conference […] we went back and forth thinking about what we could provide for the refugees and we came up with this. We contacted some companies in Greece and found an environmental solar tech company called Entec and they helped us do the design of the prototype and we work with them.
Alexandros: The unit is going to be one solar panel (with dimensions 1.5m x 0.7m), one battery, and a metallic box with 24 spots for their phones. We also worked with some key partners such as Viosy, Solar World, and Steca Elektronik. We will provide a minimum price for the company for the model to be built and there will be no profit for any parties involved.
Alexandros: We have applied for the Resolution Fellowship, which supports social ventures, and we are in the semi finals. We will also be starting a crowdfunding campaign soon, open to the public in May.
Samuel: We will send the order into the company after crowdfunding and the unit will shortly follow […] We are hoping to have it up and running in Samos in July.
Some responses in interview (23/03/16) have been slightly altered for length and clarity.
Date: MARCH 29, 2016
Image: Claire Hutchison