By Anna Pujol-Mazzini
LONDON, May 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thousands of Syrian refugees will be able to light their homes, charge their phones and chill their food by solar power as Jordan's Azraq camp became the world's first refugee camp to be powered by renewable energy, the U.N. refugee agency said on Wednesday.
Each family in almost 5,000 shelters in the desert camp will be able to use electricity generated by a solar plant.
"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," Kelly Clements, UNHCR deputy high commissioner, said in a statement.
The Azraq camp, in northern Jordan, is home to 36,000 Syrians refugees who will all be able to rely on solar power by 2018, UNHCR said.
The switch to solar power will save the agency $1.5 million per year and function even if funding dries out, UNHCR said.
The money saved will be invested elsewhere, and could be used to improve sanitation, shelters or organise activities around the camp.
The solar plant - which cost almost 9 million euros ($10 million) - was funded by the IKEA Foundation, which donated one euro to UNHCR for each lightbulb sold in the furniture chain's stores.
The plant will be connected to the national grid and any surplus electricity generated will be sent back for free.
($1 = 0.8975 euros)
(Reporting by Anna Pujol-Mazzini @annapmzn, Editing by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)