Utilities Work to Improve Electricity Access for the Navajo Nation

Source: Navajo Tribe Utilities Authority

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is preparing to welcome sister utility companies to the Navajo Nation to participate in the Light Up Navajo III (LUN III) initiative, a self-help project that extends service to Navajo homes without electricity.

The LUN III initiative is scheduled to begin on April 3, 2022 and run for 11 weeks. The aim is to connect 300 family homes to the electricity grid for the first time. The American Public Power Association (APPA) is also supporting the organization of the event.

As of April 2022, utility companies and organizations in 10 states including Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, California, Connecticut, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio , Texas, Utah and Washington DC. There will be up to four crews working each week at different locations across the Navajo Nation.

First executed in 2019, Project LUN represents an unprecedented partnership between a tribal utility company and the American Public Power Association (APPA), the service organization for more than 2,000 utility companies in community-owned electricity in the United States.

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the Light Up Navajo II (LUN II) project. The suspension was not an easy decision for NTUA, knowing that there were families waiting years for electricity. There were 48 utility companies from 15 states that had signed on for the project. Although the project was canceled for the health, safety and welfare of everyone involved, the preparation allowed the NTUA to obtain the necessary permits and prepare for the construction of 330 projects.

In August 2020, the NTUA received funding from the Navajo Nation through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and connected 330 Navajo homes initially identified and prepared for out-of-the-box status via LUN II. Overall, 737 families received electricity through CARES Act funding in 2020.

In 2021, NTUA has spent most of the year preparing for LUN III, working with the Navajo Nation Land Department and with families requesting electrical service. NTUA had to obtain rights of way, land clearances, permits and wire the houses so they were ready to have their houses ready to be hooked up to the power grid.

Since 2019, Light Up Navajo families have enjoyed a higher quality of life, benefiting from modern conveniences like refrigerated food, heating, air conditioning and lighting. Life went on without kerosene lamps, candles, flashlights, coolers, and wood or coal for cooking and heating.