In the wake of the Syrian crisis and the massive influx of refugees in Jordan, the UNHCR Jordan operation has attracted worldwide attention thanks to its unique approach to invest in new technology and partners with the Private Sector to support its refugee programmes. In recent years, the return of those smart investments has allowed UNHCR not only to reduce its expenditures and make its programmes more sustainable, but has also enhanced UNHCR’s role as a catalyst to bring new, development actors to support refugees in the long-term.
Eventually, refugees are the ones benefitting from new opportunities that give them the dignity of life to express their potential, reduce their dependency on aid while profiting from more accessible daily services. These provisions are in line with UNHCR Global Strategic Priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Renewable Solar Power Plant in Refugee Camps
In May 2017, funded by the IKEA Foundation, the first phase of a 2 MW renewable solar power plant was inaugurated in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp and brought renewable electricity to a refugee population that lived for two and a half years without electricity. In September 2018, UNHCR inaugurated a new extension of the solar power plant with the support of Jordanian company EDCO (Electrical Distribution Company). This 1.5 MW new addition takes the overall camp renewable generation to 3.5 MW which covers 55% of shelter electricity needs.
Thanks to the newly constructed solar plant and electricity grid extension funded by the Saudi Fund for development, the whole camp population will now benefit from regular access to clean energy; this shall eventually be diverted to the local grid for the benefit of host communities when the camp shuts down in the future.
Prior to the construction, the lack of electricity made even daily activities difficult, such as cooking, washing clothes, studying or walking safely to the washroom at night. Now, solar power provides affordable and sustainable electricity to at least 40,000 Syrian refugees living in up over 10,000 shelters. Each family can have light inside the shelter, connect essential appliances such as fridges and fans, and charge their phones, an invaluable resource to keep in touch with relatives and friends abroad. Additionally, the further construction of a 1.5 MW off site has started and will be completed by May 2019. In total, Azraq refugee camp will be powered by a 5 MW solar power plant, which will cover 70% of the total quantity of energy required for the whole camp. It should be recalled that UNHCR, in partnership with the Government of Jordan, funded by KfW Development Bank have established the largest solar power plant providing 12 hours electricity per day in Zaatari refugee Camp. This renewable energy connects 100% of shelters in the camp via the newly renovated medium and low voltage power network support by the Government of Czech Republic. Japan International cooperation Agency (JICA) trained 109 refugees who now have been internationally accredited as electricians and who have been involved not only in the construction of this solar plant and network, but also in the ongoing maintenance of the whole electrical system.