NAVAJO COUNTY, Ariz. — Some homes located on the Navajo Nation are spread so far apart that access to basic electricity is difficult to obtain.
The lack of utilities forces some Navajo residents to rely on battery-powered flashlights and lanterns once the sun goes down.
An estimated 14,000 homes on the reservation still don't have electricity, accounting for 75% of all U.S. households that don't have power, according to Salt River Project.
Electricians with SRP have spent the last couple of weeks trying to close the nation's electricity gap by hooking up Indigenous households to the power grid.
SRP said at least 20 families on the Navajo Nation, which encompasses most of northeastern Arizona, have recently gained access to electricity.
“One family came out to us after we finished and said, ‘We’ve been waiting 30 years to get power.’ It was emotional,” said SRP line worker Mark Henle in a statement.
The SRP workers are volunteering for the “Light Up Navajo" initiative, which has the goal of providing electricity to 300 Navajo homes within the next few weeks.
"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,” said Navajo Nation Speaker Seth Damon.
The service project began in 2019 as a partnership between a tribal utility company and the American Public Power Association.
In its first year, the project connected more than 230 Navajo homes to electricity, reducing the total number of U.S. homes without electricity by 1%, according to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.
NTUA said it costs up to $40,000 to connect a home to the power grid. The authority estimated $440,000 worth of volunteered time and more than $272,000 have been donated toward completing the utility project.
More information about Light Up Navajo can be found here.
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