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Navajo Nation gives updates on program to bring electricity to communities

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Journeymen Javier Jim clicks in the electrical meter for a home after they finished connected to power as part of Light Up Navajo III on May 2, 2022. (Shondiin Silversmith/Arizona Mirror)

In a legislative meeting Monday, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority reported on an initiative that’s working to bring electricity to rural Navajo communities.

NTUA serves a territory of over 27,000 square miles across the Navajo Nation.

Within that territory, 32% lack electricity and 86% lack natural gas. Many rely on coal and firewood to heat their homes.

The average per capita annual income is $10,700.

“For all of our investment everywhere else in the world, that we’re just not looking right here in New Mexico and that the United States is not looking at the Navajo Reservation, which encompasses three states, is just crazy,” said State Rep. Rod Montoya (R-San Juan).

At the meeting, Deputy General Manager for the NTUA Srinivasa Venigalla gave a report on the fourth Light Up Navajo program in partnership with the American Public Power Association to provide electricity to families through the efforts of volunteers and electricity companies.

This year, 26 utility companies from across the country and 176 volunteers helped connect 159 homes.

Families chosen for the program have now benefited from having refrigerated food, heating, air conditioning and electric-powered lights.

There are also efforts to bring solar panels to the area and broadband, which State Rep. Montoya said is essential.

“But what use is broadband if you don’t have electricity, to be able to even connect to the internet,” he said.

The program plans on continuing this effort with another round of volunteers in April 2024.