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Electricity has long been a contentious issue for Navajo Nation residents. Of the roughly 55,000 Indigenous households located on Navajo lands, which stretch across large parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, around 15,000 do not have electricity. And yet the reservation is an energy-exporting hotspot, having until recently been home to the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S, as well as many coal, uranium, oil, and fracking operations.
The Navajo Generating Station, or NGS, was officially decommissioned in 2019, marking one of the first big transitions away from coal in the region. The City of Los Angeles, which has historically gotten its energy from the facility, has been working with the tribe to transform the land into a hub for utility-scale solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Whether Navajo residents will be able to take advantage of that new renewable energy is another matter. While the tribe’s members have long been able to apply for federal grant money to help them get on the grid, strict eligibility criteria — such as income limits and minimum community population density — made the program inaccessible to many families.