Work got underway this week on Light Up Navajo III (LUN III), a joint effort between the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to extend electricity to Navajo homes.
The LUN III initiative began on April 3, 2022 and will last for 11 weeks. The goal is to connect 300 families’ homes to the electric grid for the first time.
NTUA will be welcoming workers from public power utilities and organizations from 11 states, including Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, California, Connecticut, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Washington, Texas, Utah, and Washington D.C.
There will be up to four crews working each week at different locations throughout the Navajo Nation.
“The Navajo Nation appreciates our partners in this collaborative effort to bring much-needed electricity to hundreds of homes this spring,” said Navajo Nation Speaker Seth Damon. “We commend the NTUA and the APPA for leading this project to help improve the standard of life for our families.”
Financing the cost to construct electric service “can be a burden for many, so the Light Up Navajo initiative will serve as the foundation to allow people to connect to the internet and modernize a way of living. The Navajo people are grateful for all the volunteer line workers and the utility companies involved to make this happen,” he said.
“Public power utilities have shown over the years that they are incredible at stepping up to help each other,” said APPA President and CEO Joy Ditto. “We are well practiced in sending aid in the wake of natural disasters, and we are leveraging these skills to help bring power to those who still don’t have it in our country in the year 2022, a situation that must be rectified.”
NTUA General Manager Walter Haase said the partnership embodies the true American spirit of helping one another. In its first year, the project connected more than 230 homes to electricity, reducing the total number of U.S. homes without electricity by one percent.
“We are grateful that outside communities are sending their electric crews to help,” said Haase. “These visiting crews are ready to help build and will be ready to celebrate with Light Up Navajo III families after they get connected. The project will not only make a positive life changing impact on our families, but it is also a powerful impression on the lineworkers and their communities who proudly volunteer their services.”
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the Light Up Navajo II project. The suspension was not an easy decision for NTUA, knowing there were families waiting years for electricity. There were 48 utility companies from 15 states that had signed up for the project.
Although the project was canceled for the health, safety, and well-being of everyone involved, preparation resulted in NTUA acquiring the necessary clearances and making 330 projects construction ready.
In August 2020, NTUA received funds 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 shovel-ready status through LUN II. Overall, 737 families received electricity through the CARES Act funding in 2020.
In 2021, NTUA spent most of the year preparing for LUN III, working with the Navajo Nation Land Department and with the families requesting electric service. NTUA had to secure Rights of Way, land clearances, permits and wire homes so that they will be ready to have their homes ready to be connected to the electric grid.
Earlier this year, Massachusetts public power utility Peabody Municipal Light Plant donated surplus equipment to help with electrification of Navajo Nation through the Light Up Navajo Project.