SMUD line workers leave for Navajo Nation to bring electricity to homes for the first time
SMUD line workers are helping to begin electrifying thousands of homes in the Navajo Nation, located in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The crew loaded up their rigs and hit the road on April 26. They’ll work two weeks there, until May 11, and then return to Sacramento.
The work is SMUD’s part of the “Light Up Navajo” initiative, a pilot effort organized by the American Public Power association (APPA) to begin electrifying Navajo households that have never had electric power. SMUD volunteered to join crews from other community-owned electric utilities across the nation for “Light Up Navajo” to support electrification efforts by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, the public power utility serving the Navajo Nation.
Public power utilities across the country, including SMUD, are sending crews to build electric lines for 15 projects that will begin to connect homes, which have no power, for the first time to the grid. The pilot effort will serve as a model for future electrification projects that will eventually help connect all the Navajo Nation’s residents to electric service. Of the 55,000 homes located on the 27,000 square mile Navajo Nation (roughly the size of West Virginia), approximately 15,000 homes do not have electricity. These represent 75 percent of all U.S. households that do not have electricity.
“Through this partnership, SMUD will help improve the lives of Navajo families, many of whom will be connected to the electric grid for the very first time,” said SMUD Chief Energy Delivery Officer Frankie McDermott. “We anticipate that Light Up Navajo will serve as a successful model for continued efforts to turn on the lights for all Navajo homes that hope to connect to the grid.”
Not having access to electricity obviously has many repercussions for Navajo families. One of the harshest being lack of access to running water. Families drive more than an hour once or twice a week to fill 250-gallon plastic tanks with water for cooking, cleaning and drinking. Not having electricity has also deprived Navajo families of reliable lighting and modern appliances such as refrigerators, toasters and microwaves.
“It is shocking that in this day and age, there are still so many homes in the U.S. without electricity,” said Mike Hyland, senior vice president, engineering and operations, at the American Public Power Association. “The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has worked hard in recent years to power 3,000 homes. Now, with help from the national public power community, they can do much more. We are touched by the support being offered from so many of our member utilities.”
Utility crews from volunteering community-owned public power utilities started work in the Navajo Nation earlier in April, with others rotating through to relieve them and continue the ongoing work. The project is expected to be completed by May 18.
While Light Up Navajo depends on volunteering utilities to accomplish the mission, the initiative relies on donations and accepts cash or material donations via publicpower.org/donate-light-navajo.
The American Public Power Association is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. We represent public power before the federal government to protect the interests of the more than 49 million people that public power utilities serve, and the 93,000 people they employ. Our association advocates and advises on electricity policy, technology, trends, training, and operations. Our members strengthen their communities by providing superior service, engaging citizens, and instilling pride in community-owned power. For more information, visit publicpower.org.
As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 70 years to Sacramento County (and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties). SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit smud.org.
SMUD Line Division personnel load their trucks with tools and equipment before hitting the road to The Navajo Nation. They’ll work there two weeks with many other public power utilities from across the USA helping bring electric power to homes there for the first time. The effort called “Light Up Navajo” is coordinated by the American Public Power association (APPA).