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A new solar plant is now powering the Azraq refugee camp in the Jordanian desert, making Azraq the first refugee camp to run on renewable energy, the UN refugee agency reported Wednesday.


20,000 of the 35,000 Syrian refugees living in the camp will be able to use the electricity to light shelters, power cell phones and run fridges. The UN reported that all refugees at the camp will have access to the solar power by next year. The $9.7 million plant, funded by Ikea's Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, will be connected to the national grid and save the UN agency $1.5 million annually.

"Lighting up the camp is not only a symbolic achievement," said Kelly T. Clements, deputy high commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"It provides a safer environment for all camp residents, opens up livelihoods opportunities and gives children the chance to study after dark. Above all, it allows all residents of the camps to lead more dignified lives."

For each LED light-bulb IKEA sold during the campaign period from 2014 to 2015, the IKEA Foundation donated one euro to UNHCR to fund renewable energy and education for refugees.

"The world's first solar farm in a refugee camp signals a paradigm shift in how the humanitarian sector supports displaced populations," said Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation.

"UNHCR Jordan will save millions of dollars, while reducing carbon emissions and improving living conditions for some of the world's most vulnerable children and families."

For a deeper dive:

AP, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Phys.org

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