08:00 AM

SRP Documentary Encourages Other Utilities to Help ‘Light Up Navajo’

Efforts to Support Native Americans Living Without Electricity Receive International Attention

Editor Note:

- The documentary can be viewed and captured for newscasts on YouTube.
- Interviews with SRP linemen and filmmakers are available upon request.

Salt River Project documentary called Light Up Navajo,” created in partnership with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is being used to recruit utilities and expand efforts to electrify homes on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona.

The film — produced by SRP — captures the hardships of living without electricity in the 21st century as well as the joy this summer when residents receive electricity in their homes for the first time.

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the documentary is now available online and SRP and the NTUA have shared it with the American Public Power Association (APPA) and its members to inspire other utilities nationwide to participate in ongoing efforts. Last month, the film won Best Documentary Short Film recently from the Cannes World Film Festival’s monthly competition. 

The film depicts the stories of those who live on the Navajo Nation, where some families have waited a lifetime for electricity in their homes. Of the 55,000 homes located on the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, approximately 14,000 homes still do not have electricity in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. They represent 75 percent of all U.S. households that do not have power.   

“This summer marked the second time SRP line workers, based out of Tempe Service Center, volunteered to participate in the Light Up Navajo (LUN) effort to provide our neighbors in remote northern Arizona with basic, modern-day needs,” said Wayne Wisdom, Senior Director, Distribution Grid Services. “For generations, these families have been living on their own with the use of generators, kerosene lamps or whatever they have. It is so exciting to know children now have a refrigerator for fresh food and electricity to do homework.” 

Light Up Navajo I launched in 2019 and solicited neighboring utility support, primarily from public power utilities such as SRP. In 2022, SRP was one of 14 volunteer utilities from 10 states across the U.S. that participated in the Light Up Navajo III electrification project, which is led by the APPA and NTUA.

“Light Up Navajo is all about improving the standard of life for Navajo families. The mutual assistance endeavor has answered countless prayers for electric connection and for hundreds erased the daily challenges of living without electricity,” said NTUA General Manager Walter Haase. “The project has also made a powerful impression on visiting line workers and their communities who proudly participated in this positive life-changing, meaningful mutual-aid effort. We are grateful for their help to bring heartfelt joy to the families that have been waiting so long for electricity.”

Since its launch in 2019, a total of 780 homes on the Navajo Nation now have electricity due to LUN efforts. SRP employees directly provided power to 98 of those families.

 SRP Light Up Navajo Stats:

2019 Light Up Navajo I
42 homes powered with electricity
42 miles of distribution line constructed by SRP line crews
249 distribution poles set
26 miles of overhead wire strung
3,250 hours of donated man-hours by 17 employees
2022 Light Up Navajo III
56 homes powered with electricity
18 miles of distribution lines constructed by SRP line crews
193 distribution poles set
20 miles of overhead wire strung
4,500 hours of donated man-hours by 14 employees

Electrifying just one household is an expensive endeavor. Each household, on average, requires one transformer, 0.6 miles of wire, nine poles, 16 insulators, and two arrestors to connect to the electric grid, which is an average material cost of around $5,500. The public is invited to help donate to the effort and can learn more at www.publicpower.org/donate-light-navajo.

Quotes from SRP crew members:
 “The first home we connected was the most touching for me. It was a mom who was living in a trailer with her children, and they had no power or running water. They had gotten sick with COVID-19 and had to quarantine at home. They were excited (to get power) and telling us how tough it had been the last few months,” described Art Peralta, SRP construction crew foreman, who resides in Mesa. “It’s very rewarding. I’ve never done anything like this, and it means a lot. It’s life changing and brings more meaning to our job.”

 “There was a mother, daughter and her two kids in Tuba City and they were really excited to have power. The kids were excited to be able to entertain themselves without having to turn on a generator and to watch TV. It was nice to get to see that and use our skills to help out,” said Austin D’addabo, SRP trades helper.

“The challenge our linemen usually face is restoring power to customers in metro Phoenix — especially during storm season. However, during LUN assignments, we build completely new electrical infrastructure in remote areas of our state,” said Bret Marchese, SRP Director of Customer Construction Services. “I will never forget seeing the faces of the people who received power for the first time. It is an honor to help improve the quality of life for our neighbors to the north.”

About Light Up Navajo
According to APPA, 300,000 people reside on the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Of the 55,000 homes located there, which is roughly the size of West Virginia, approximately 14,000 homes still do not have electricity. They represent 75 percent of all U.S. households that do not have power.

About APPA
The American Public Power Association is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. APPA represents 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. APPA advocates and advises on electricity policy, technology, trends, training and operations. The members strengthen their communities by providing superior service, engaging citizens and instilling pride in community-owned power.

About SRP

SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest electricity provider in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving approximately 1.1 million customers. SRP provides water to about half of the Valley’s residents, delivering more than 244 billion gallons of water (750,000 acre-feet) each year, and manages a 13,000-square-mile watershed that includes an extensive system of reservoirs, wells, canals and irrigation laterals.