Powering Strong Communities

Documentary Encourages Utilities to Help with Light Up Navajo

A Salt River Project (SRP) documentary created in partnership with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is being used to recruit utilities and expand efforts to electrify homes on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona through the Light Up Navajo initiative.

The film, which was produced by SRP, an Arizona public power utility, “captures the hardships of living without electricity in the 21st century as well as the joy this summer when residents receive electricity in their homes for the first time,” SRP said.

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the documentary is now available online and SRP and the NTUA have shared it with the American Public Power Association (APPA) and its members to inspire other utilities nationwide to participate in ongoing efforts.

In October, the film won Best Documentary Short Film recently from the Cannes World Film Festival’s monthly competition.

The film depicts the stories of those who live on the Navajo Nation, where some families have waited a lifetime for electricity in their homes. Of the 55,000 homes located on the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, approximately 14,000 homes still do not have electricity in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. They represent 75 percent of all U.S. households that do not have power.   

“This summer marked the second time SRP line workers, based out of Tempe Service Center, volunteered to participate in the Light Up Navajo (LUN) effort to provide our neighbors in remote northern Arizona with basic, modern-day needs,” said Wayne Wisdom, Senior Director, Distribution Grid Services. “For generations, these families have been living on their own with the use of generators, kerosene lamps or whatever they have. It is so exciting to know children now have a refrigerator for fresh food and electricity to do homework.” 

Light Up Navajo I launched in 2019 and solicited neighboring utility support, primarily from public power utilities such as SRP. In 2022, SRP was one of 14 volunteer utilities from 10 states across the U.S. that participated in the Light Up Navajo III electrification project, which is led by the APPA and NTUA.

“Light Up Navajo is all about improving the standard of life for Navajo families. The mutual assistance endeavor has answered countless prayers for electric connection and for hundreds erased the daily challenges of living without electricity,” said NTUA General Manager Walter Haase. “The project has also made a powerful impression on visiting line workers and their communities who proudly participated in this positive life-changing, meaningful mutual-aid effort. We are grateful for their help to bring heartfelt joy to the families that have been waiting so long for electricity.”

Since its launch in 2019, a total of 780 homes on the Navajo Nation now have electricity due to LUN efforts. SRP employees directly provided power to 98 of those families.

Click here to watch the documentary.

A virtual planning meeting for the next Light Up Navajo mutual aid initiative took place on Sept. 14, 2022.