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Light of Hope in the Middle of the Crisis: Solar Power to Light Up Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan

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The Azraq camp for Syrian refugees will be the first refugee camp in the world to be powered by clean energy. Established in April 2014, the Azraq camp is home to more than 50,000 Syrian refugees and had been relying on diesel generators for electrical power. The camp is jointly run by UNHCR and the Government of Jordan and located in a remote stretch of desert some 50 miles from the Jordan–Syria border.

The Jordanian government has been a strong proponent for expanding the renewable energy sector to take advantage of the country’s vast open spaces and has set a target of increasing the renewable energy contribution of its electrical needs from 4% to 15% by 2020. The Azraq camp presented the perfect opportunity to contribute to the government’s goal of expanding the renewable energy sector while providing an important basic need to the camp’s residents.

Next came the hard work of constructing and setting up the solar infrastructure. After a competitive bid process, Shukri Halaby, owner of a company that specializes in installing solar energy systems, was selected to design, build, supply, install and maintain a photovoltaic electricity generation plant at Azraq. With assistance from the Jordan Loan Guarantee Facility (JLGF), Halaby was able to secure a loan through one of the local partner banks, enabling him to purchase the solar panels and other necessary equipment needed to carry out this large project.

The JLGF is a $250 million, OPIC-backed facility designed to overcome obstacles to bank financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). SMEs often face obstacles due to a lack of credit information, weak creditor rights and a deficient collateral. By coupling loan guarantees with customized technical assistance for participating banks and non-bank financial institutions, the JLGF is also strengthening the capacity of the Jordanian financial services sector to continue serving the credit needs of the SME market in a sustainable manner. Greater access for SMEs to finance means more job creation and community improvement by stimulating private-sector-to-private-sector investment.

The new solar system will be online soon powering the camp with less of environmental impact. Not only is it cleaner and quieter, it will also reduce the cost of electricity for the camp by an estimated of JD 600,000 (more than USD $800,000). In addition to meeting the camps electricity needs, it plans to sell excess power to neighboring communities. The project has also trained 50 Syrian refugees living in the camp. These residents helped build the system and have been trained on how to operate and maintain it providing them with valuable job skills that they can apply in the future.