Refugee Influx Pushes Government of Jordan to Invest in Solar

Jordan plans to build renewable energy to help deal with the 1.4 million people that have spilled over its border from Syria as the war next door shows little sign of abating.

The Middle Eastern country is likely to sign a deal with the European Union for a 90 million-euro ($100 million) package before the end of February, according to Omar Abu Eid, manager of the energy, environment and climate change program bloc’s delegation to Jordan. The funds will be used to reduce the pressure the Syrian refugees are having on the country’s infrastructure.

“Our economic growth was on average three times higher before the crisis,” Imad Fakhoury, minister of planning, international cooperation and tourism, said during a panel discussion at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. “We need to find a way to be a host community without disrupting it. We need a paradigm shift, development rather than emergency response.”

Refugees stay for an average of 17 years in a host country, according to the United Nations. One in seven people in Jordan is a Syrian refugee. The sudden influx of people is taking the biggest toll on the country’s water system, where demand has risen by an average of 20 percent across the country and as much as 40 percent in the northern region where most of the refugees camp, according to Fakhoury.

Jordan is a desert kingdom. It numbers among the world’s most water-stressed nations and spends about $5.4 billion annually, 15 percent of its GDP, on energy to power its water pumps. “At one reservoir, the water is pumped 700 meters up and then 300 kilometers to Amman,” Abu Eid said by phone.

About 47 million euros representing more than half of the EU funds will go to the development of renewables and energy-efficiency projects, Abu Eid said. This will include the installation of 300 solar-powered water pumps to reduce the country’s energy costs.

Other initiatives will be 1,000 rooftop solar panels, 20,000 sun-powered water heaters and a 5-megawatt photovoltaic farm in Azraq in central Jordan.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.