Humanitarian response is already stretched to the limit by the forced displacement of millions of people. Did you know that approximately 65 million people are currently displaced from their homes due to various causes such as war, political instability, food insecurity, pollution, and environmental change? Is there something that can at least help these people live a normal life? Yes, there is: #solar power. Why #solar power? Because even though humanitarian agencies are managing in large part to feed and shelter displaced people, they are unable to provide the much-needed electricity to everyone. When we think about solar power, we think about a few solar panels placed on the roof of a pleasant-looking house. Few of us think about those panels placed on some rusty old shacks or on open space around refugee camps.
However, everyone needs electricity (be it from solar sources or from a mains supply). Even charging a phone would be impossible, not to mention the use of street lighting that greatly decreases criminality rates, without electricity. Currently, according to The National, 86 percent of #refugees worldwide are located in refugee centers in middle- to low-income countries (many of them located in Africa and South America). Solar energy is not something you find everywhere in these countries. In fact, many of them are having problem supplying their own citizens with electricity. There is no infrastructure, no solar projects, no equipment, and no money to deal with so many refugees.
The serious financial deficits of the UN and other partners are forcing more and more agencies to cut aid programs. Even some of the few solar projects that were implemented in these low-income countries are being threatened. The world needs some new, innovative ideas. How is it possible to provide power to so many people every day without increasing carbon emissions and without straining the electrical grid? The answer is only one: solar power.
Energy obtained from renewable sources like solar radiation is both affordable and green. It can sustain economic growth and create new jobs in low-income countries. More solar jobs means more migrants that can be productive and give back to the community. According to The National, there are plenty of economic benefits to going solar. At this time, displaced populations cost around $1.7 billion in charcoal and firewood (down from $2.1 billion before solar lanterns and efficient stoves were implemented). Solar power is the way to go, it seems. Let’s look at one of the most eloquent examples of using solar power to help refugees.
Jordan has switched to solar power using solar panels in two of its huge refugee camps: Azraq and Zaatari. These two camps now have access to affordable, green solar energy; solar energy that is changing the lives of over 100,000 refugees, mainly from war-torn Syria. Solar power from the 12.9-megawatt solar power plant in Zaatari and the 5-megawatt solar plant in Azraq enable refugees to recharge their phones, study, and even run electrical appliances for cooking and washing. Also, carbon emissions have been decreased by over 20,000 tonnes per year due to the use of clean solar energy. The UN Refugee Agency projects it will save more than $12.5 million every year from using solar power in the two refugee camps. This money can be used for implementing solar power in other refugee camps.
Another benefit of using solar power for refugee camps is the fact that solar power greatly decreases electricity costs and also decreases the use of fossil fuels and the emissions of carbon monoxide. In addition, creating jobs in the solar industry means that more and more refugees are able to work and contribute to the economies of the countries that are housing them. Everyone has a lot to gain simply by switching from fossil fuels to solar power – even the Earth itself.
Solar power installations are becoming more and more versatile and mobile. There are now solar panels that can be transported in the back of a 4×4 and rolled out where they are needed. These solar panels work like a carpet and can be placed on any open field in areas where electricity is needed. In addition, there are systems that act like mini grids and can be easily transported. Solar lanterns and solar street lights are increasingly cheaper as well. Some solar systems can be deployed quickly for desalination and life-support duty in just hours. Solar installations can save lives, provide water where it is needed, and light entire refugee camps. Of course, solar energy can power stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, and even AC units in hospitals.
According to The National, one of the main Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations is to provide access to modern, affordable and reliable energy on a universal scale by the year 2030. Solar energy is already helping hundreds of thousands of refugees all around the globe. Why not extend and hasten the implementation of solar projects in low-income countries that are having a refugee problem? Refugees are vulnerable and need assistance from countries that afford to lend a hand. However, they too can help their hosts. Employing refugees in the solar industry has proven to be very effective and profitable for the countries that chose to implement solar projects. Refugee economies provide a serious cash infusion for countries that host them – with or without solar power. For example, a study conducted in Cleveland, OH, demonstrated that the city received around $48 million over a couple of years from refugees it invested in resettling for just $4.8 million. Refugees are of real help, and they should receive the help they need themselves. Let’s see where solar developments take us by following current solar news.