New York Times Feed

Jordan, March 9, 2020
Energy Hakathon closes with practical solutions to development challenges

Amman, Mar. 8 (Petra)- Jordan’s biggest energy hackathon wrapped up this week with the participation of 50 teams all working for 11 days to find solutions to Jordan’s biggest energy woes.

The hackathon witnessed innovative ideas by young teams hacking three challenges: Helping households reduce their electricity consumption, applying innovative approaches to monitor and control electricity consumption and figuring out a way to ensure equitable access to electricity, especially within refugee camps which face a shortage of electricity and a continuous need to ration use.

In partnership with the Norwegian Embassy, several NGOs and the private sector, and the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the hackathon participants will continue to benefit from the expertise of UNDP Jordan’s Accelerator Lab to further test and prototype their solutions and receive support in identifying opportunities for scaling. The UNDP Accelerator Lab is a new service offering that works with people, government and the private sector to find solutions to the complex challenges the world is facing today.

One of the three winning teams is Hope for Humans which came up with a solution to convert kinetic energy into electrical energy by prototyping a special tile that generates energy once it is stepped on using the piezoelectric effect. The team hopes that such a solution might help alleviate the electricity shortage faced by the camps while also providing much-needed insulation for the floors at refugee camps.

Speaking about the solution, team member Hazem Mohamad said renewable energy generation was a dream where he lived in war-ravaged Syria which faces continuous power outages. He said generating electricity is very expensive using conventional methods such as wind or water. This is why, he said, the solution his team proposes could be successful: Using a cheap way to generate a satisfactory amount of electricity.

He wishes to apply this solution at Al Azraq Refugee Camp, 'the camp is a small geographical location with thousands of people moving around. If we can get this solution working to generate electricity via the simple act of moving while solving a huge problem for these refugees we have arrived at the best result ever' he said.

Given the current economic conditions in Jordan, and the increasing pressure on citizens’ disposable income, the strain of energy costs are increasing for Jordanian and refugee households alike. A significant challenge remains in terms of reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency, which is viewed as more cost-effective approaches to managing the increasing demand for energy.

UNDP Jordan Resident Representative Sara Ferrer Olivella said citizen engagement was key to solving energy issues.

'Climate Action starts with every house in Jordan. Our focus is on curbing the demand for energy through citizen engagement by promoting responsible consumption at the user-level targeting residential establishments' she said, before adding 'addressing challenges of how households can become more energy-efficient and reduce their electricity consumption, in addition to addressing how households can apply innovative approaches to monitor and control electricity consumption.'

Jordan is host to two large Syrian refugee camps – Zaatari and Azraq – which are home to around 120,000 people. Both of these camps have solar panel plants providing electricity access to their populations. However, due to over-consumption, the camps are only able to offer electricity access for 11 hours per day, resulting in significant additional operating costs. Rationing electricity is a solution to minimizing costs, but a more fundamental problem is to ensure equitable access to energy for each household in the two camps, whenever energy is available.

At refugee camps, even under restricted access to energy, refugee households that are larger and have more appliances are likely to use more electricity than smaller households or households where family members are not home during the day time. Additionally, small businesses and shops that are also accessing electricity in the camps may be doing so disproportionately.

Jordan Energy Hackathon 2020 supported humanitarian agencies in finding possible solutions to ensure that the energy needs of the Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps can be delivered equitably, with the potential result that the daily energy coverage could be increased beyond the current 11 hours of electricity access.

Currently prototyping their idea, Hope for Humans Team is working to make their solution very affordable and very effective, aiming to arrive at a JD5 price per tile with an expected generation of 2.834 KW per hour per tile.

The two other winning teams are Change Makers, who have developed a system consisting of motors, rollers and capacitors that generate electrical energy by using three sources of self-operation; solar, wind and through movement by operating a stationary bicycle. The third team is Neurotech whose solution is based on data collection and analysis for electricity consumption and fair distribution of electrical energy among Zaatari and Azraq camps using Neural Network based smart meters.

These meters are equipped with smart breakers that sense the energy consumption and are programmed to ensure fair energy distribution depending on several factors like the number of family members, area of the caravan, and other special circumstances.

petra