The first refugee camp powered by a solar farm
BY CAMILLA TUBERTINI
Imagine living without electricity. No lamps. No fridge. No stove. No heating. No phone. Washing clothes by hand. On top of this, imagine being separated from friends and family with no way of communicating or knowing anything about the world outside.
For two and a half years, the Azraq refugee camp in the desert in northern Jordan, had no electricity. In the harsh winter, the 54,000 Syrian refugees here lived in complete darkness for nearly half the day. In summer, when temperatures soar to 40 degrees Centigrade in the shade, food spoiled almost immediately.
But in 2017, all this changed. In May, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) turned on the camp’s newly constructed solar plant. Entirely funded by the IKEA Foundation’s “Brighter Lives for Refugees’” campaign, the solar farm has supplied renewable power, covering the energy needs of the whole camp. 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 trying to keep in contact with relatives abroad.
Thanks to electricity, families can spend quality time with each other after the sun sets.
Azraq’s solar farm is the first solar plant in the world built in a refugee setting. In Jordan, where the cost of electricity is high, the solar plant will allow UNHCR to provide electricity to families free of cost. The construction project also provided an income for over 50 refugees, who were trained and employed to build the solar farm.
“We are very grateful to everyone involved – especially the IKEA customers and co-workers who took part in the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, UNHCR, the Jordanian government, EDCO, and most of all, the Syrian and Jordanian people who made this project a reality,” said Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation. “The world’s first solar farm in a refugee camp signals a paradigm shift in how the humanitarian sector supports displaced populations.”
The solar plant was entirely funded by the ‘IKEA Foundation’s Brighter Lives for Refugees’ campaign. For every lamp or bulb sold during the three campaign periods, the IKEA Foundation donated 1 euro to UNHCR, adding up to a total of 30.8 million euros for renewable energy and education projects. The solar farm will save 1.5 million U.S. dollar per year – savings that can be invested in other things. It will also reduce CO2 emissions by 2,370 tons per year.
IKEA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of INGKA Holding B.V. (owner of the largest IKEA franchisee). The IKEA Foundation aims to improve opportunities for children and youth in some of the world’s poorest communities by focusing on four fundamental areas of a child’s life: a place to call home; a healthy start in life; a quality education; and a sustainable family income.
IKEA Foundation is also helping these communities fight and cope with climate change. By working with very strong strategic partners such as Handicap International, IKEA Foundation can use innovative approaches to achieve large-scale results for children.