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Jordan’s Azraq becomes world’s first clean energy refugee camp

By Wam

The world's first solar farm in a refugee camp switched on today in northern Jordan, providing renewable energy sources to about 20,000 Syrians living in the Azraq camp, the United Nations refugee agency today said.

Thousands of Syrian families will light up their homes, charge their phones and chill their food by solar power tonight, as Jordan’s Azraq camp becomes the first refugee camp in the world to be powered by renewable energy.

Calling it a "milestone," the deputy from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the 2-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, funded by IKEA Foundation's Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, allows all residents to leave more dignified lives.

"Lighting up the camp is not only a symbolic achievement; it provides a safer environment for all camp residents, opens up livelihoods opportunities, and gives children the chance to study after dark," said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner, Kelly Clements.

A lack of electricity was one of the main challenges in Azraq, which opened in April 2014, and which has 5,000 shelters.

"Each family can now connect a fridge, a TV, a fan, have light inside the shelter and charge their phones, which is critical for refugees to keep in contact with their relatives abroad," the UN agency said.

In addition, 50 refugees have been trained and employed to help build the solar farm under the supervision of a Jordanian company, and some will work on its maintenance.

The plant was built at a cost of 8.75 million euros (US$9.6m), funded entirely by the IKEA Foundation’s "Brighter Lives for Refugees" campaign. It will result in immediate energy savings of US$1.5m a year - which UNHCR will be able to reinvest in other much-needed assistance - as well as annual CO2 emissions savings of 2,370 tons.

Once it is upgraded from 2-megawatts to 5, it will cover all the refugee camp's needs. Any extra electricity will be sent for free to cover the host community's energy needs.