Access to clean and affordable energy for all is a sustainable development goal for the United Nations and the IEC is contributing to the effort with a number of its International Standards. Cheap solar energy is helping refugees find some small level of comfort by giving them access to safe and non polluting lighting.
According to the UNHCR, 2,6m people across the world have lived in refugee camps for more than five years. Solar Pico Systems (SPS) use a small compact and lightweight solar panels to generate a low amount of electricity to power lamps or smartphones, devices which do not use a huge quantity of energy. SPS technology has been improving the lives of refugees as it replaces dangerous, expensive and toxic kerosene lamps in refugee camps around the world. Examples include the Kiziba refugee camp near lake Kivu in Rwanda, where a number of women and children can now go the latrines at night without fear because they have been given a solar lantern.
Ikea has teamed up with the UNHCR to provide a flat-pack self-assembly refugee shelter equipped with a solar panel roof. These have been used by Medecins Sans Frontières following the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal and in many other refugee camps around the world. They withstand bad weather conditions better than tents and have a much longer lifespan, in addition to providing safe lighting and electricity to families.
On a more global scale, the Jordanian government together with the UNHCR are installing a solar power plant and power grid for the Asraq refugee camp which is situated in the Jordanian desert and home to 50 000 refugees, mostly from Syria. Other camps are expected to follow in Asraq’s footsteps.
The IEC has published a wide number of International Standards in the field of renewable energies and has focused a considerable amount of expertise on solar energy. Some of this work has been accomplished under the remit of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 82: Solar photovoltaic energy systems which includes SPS. Larger installations are under the aegis of IEC 117: Solar thermal electric plants.
For more on this topic, read: http://iecetech.org/issue/2017-04/Plug-and-play-for-refugees.