Sustainable power supply for refugees and stability for host communities 

Sustainable power supply for refugees and stability for host communities 

Contact details 

Submitted by: Dr. Silvia Morgenroth, Head of Division 221, Tackling the root causes of displacement, Partnership for Prospects 

Email: [email protected]  


Social: @BMZ_Bund 


Introduction to the project 




2015 – 2017 


BMZ has supported Jordan in improving the living conditions of refugees and host communities through access to a sustainable electricity supply.

A photovoltaic system next to a refugee camp in Jordan with a connection to the local grid (net metering) was constructed and now provides sustainable energy for approximately 80,000 refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp. 

This is the largest power plant in a refugee camp worldwide. It is run by UNHCR, and mainly financed by KfW with funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The power plant saves an estimated 260,000 t CO2 over twenty years. 

Main activities of the Good Practice 

  • Construction of a 12.9 MW photovoltaic power plant next to the Zaatari refugee camp 

  • Operation of the plant and connection to the national grid (net metering) 

  • Training of refugees in construction, operation, and maintenance of plant infrastructure 


  • KfW Development Bank 
  • Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR)  

Challenges and how they were overcome

The costs of electricity in Zaatari borne by UNHCR amounted to approximately €450,000 per month/€5,400,000 per year before the construction of the solar plant, when only six hours of electricity per day could be provided.  

Due to special funding requirements, the project implementation period was short, so coordination and cooperation with the Jordanian partner MEMR was essential. 

To maximize the benefit to the Syrian inhabitants of the camp, all the local workers on the construction site were hired from among the refugees. Three were eventually trained and permanently hired as operation and maintenance technicians by the plant operator. 

Since the plant is owned by the Jordanian Government and the camp is a temporary settlement, the responsibility of, and provisions for operation and maintenance of the plant were agreed with the government at an early stage to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project and the functioning of the solar plant. 

Surplus power produced by the plant is fed into the grid and can be credited against additional power supply by the distribution company when requested by UNHCR (e.g. additional hours of electricity for use during Ramadan). 

Results of the Good Practice  

Sustainable energy for refugees and stability for host communities.

Up to 80,000 people in the Zaatari refugee camp benefit from this sustainable electricity. With twelve hours provided daily, refugees in the Zaatari camp now have access to electricity twice as long as they did before.    

  • Electricity provision has improved refugees’ lives economically, socially (especially for women), health-wise, and from a security perspective. 
  • Fifty Syrian refugees were hired during the construction phase; three refugee technicians support the current operation and maintenance of the plant. 
  • Partnership: One hundred and fifty male and female refugees trained as electricians (UNHCR/JICA funded). 

The solar plant furthermore ensures net stability in the strained electricity infrastructure in Jordan’s north. 

Money saving and an environmentally friendly solution  

Electricity is expensive in Jordan, as it is mainly produced from imported fossil materials. Solar power generation diversifies Jordan's energy sources in the long term and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the associated external costs. Furthermore, it can noticeably ease the burden on Jordan's national budget.  

Due to the photovoltaic power plant, UNHCR now saves more than €7,000,00 a year compared to what it would otherwise have cost to supply twelve hours of electricity per day for up to 80,000 people. This has considerably eased the strain on UNHCR's budget and has allowed for urgently needed investment in other areas of refugee aid in the camp. 

The installation of the 12.9 MW photovoltaic system cost a total of €16,500,000. These investment costs will amortize within two and a half years. In addition, the solar plant contributes to an estimated CO2 reduction of 260,000 t over twenty years.