Light Up Navajo brings together electric utility companies across the country to connect 14,000 families who have never had power

(Albuquerque, NM) – PNM line crews recently traveled to the greater Shiprock, New Mexico area and in tribal communities located in Arizona and Utah volunteering in a nationwide utility collaboration project called Light Up Navajo. The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American territory, yet more than 14,000 families do not have electricity. The Navajo Nation, American Public Power Association, and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), launched the Light Up Navajo project in 2019 to energize homes that have never had power and PNM crews are joining efforts again this year for this critical project.

Imagine life without electricity. Without any lights, cooling, microwaves, television, without computers, or cell phones. Picture life where refrigerators do not exist because there is no electric power. For approximately 14,000 families on the Navajo Nation, this is reality. The Light Up Navajo project is helping to change that for families throughout the region.

PNM was one of the electric utility companies in the country that proudly participated in this life-changing project, including utilities from Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, California, Connecticut, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Washington D.C.

This year, the 11-week Light Up Navajo initiative worked to connect 300 homes on the Navajo Nation to the electric grid for the first time. Seven journeyman linemen represented PNM, worked alongside NTUA crews, and other utility volunteer linemen, to construct and install new power poles and run new distribution lines to energize existing homes that have never had electricity. Since the Light Up Navajo project started in 2019, approximately 7,000 family homes have been connected to the power grid.

Families, like the one pictured here, have been overwhelmed by the support, sharing countless stories of appreciation. Some of the sentiments shared with PNM included, “Electricity to us means, for the very first time, we can turn on a light switch, make a pot of coffee without building a fire, and can refrigerate our food.”

“For us, it is a rare and emotional experience to witness with the family when we turn on the power to their home for the very first time,” said Clay Moronaga, PNM journeyman lineman who volunteered for Light Up Navajo this year. “It is incredible to see this transformative experience that not only improves quality of life for families living on the Navajo Nation but also provides a sense of dignity and empowerment.” 

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone have access to these essential amenities, regardless of their geographical location or socioeconomic status,” said Cathy Newby, PNM Director of Tribal Government and Customer Relations. “I am immensely proud of our PNM crews for connecting so many Navajo families to the electric grid for the first time. Their technical skills have forever improved so many lives.” 

The Light Up Navajo project represents an unprecedented partnership between the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which is a tribal utility company, and the American Public Power Association (APPA), which is the service organization for more than two thousand utility companies in the United States and the Navajo Nation.

“Collaboration between electric utility companies across the country is critical in addressing the pressing issue of electrification in our tribal communities,” said Navajo Nation President, Buu Nygren. “By working together, we can ensure that families on the Navajo Nation, who have never had access to electricity before, are finally connected to the grid. It is imperative that we continue building partnerships and prioritize the needs of our people to achieve this vital goal.” 

The 2019 Light Up Navajo pilot project inspired nationwide utility participation that has continued to forever change the lives of Navajo families.

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