East Arizona News

East Arizona News

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Navajo Nation transitioning to clean energy


By Kimberly James | Mar 14, 2020

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Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez | Facebook

Los Angeles' Green New Deal aims to make the city 55% dependent on renewable energy by 2025 and fully dependent on renewable energy by 2045.

 In an attempt to become more green, officials are moving away from coal-powered electricity. The city sold its shares of a coal-powered generating station on the Navajo Nation in 2016. The plant fully closed in November 2019.

In its place, if given the green light after a 30-day evaluation, renewable energy will travel from the reservation to California. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti passed and finalized the motion. 

"We’re talking about solar energy, wind energy, in other words, completely transitioning from coal into renewable resources,” Mitch O’Farrell, the city council member who presented the motion, told the Arizona Daily Independent. O'Farrell is the first member of the council to belong to a federally recognized tribe.

Most of the tribe members relied on jobs at the generating station. Ninety percent of the generating station's staff were Navajo. The Navajo Nation expects income losses of about $40 million in the first fiscal year after the station closure.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the Navajo are resilient people and hope to be the leaders in renewable energy in "Indian Country." 

The partnership would bring wind and solar power to Los Angeles while encouraging economic development for the Navajo Nation.

The 30-day evaluation period is examining potential costs and benefits for electricity ratepayers. Most likely, it will be beneficial for the city's residents. The city's Department of Water and Power hasn't given up ownership of the transmission lines. The partnership would be directly between the Navajo Nation and the City of Los Angeles.

The Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine that fueled it contributed just over $1 billion to the Navajo and Hopi communities since 1987. The mine's main purpose to feed the generating station, closed when the generating station closed.

Jobs were offered to each of the station's 433 employees, 12 stayed to decommission the plant and 284 were dispatched to other energy projects around Arizona. 

The Navajo Nation currently has two solar energy projects that generate 55 megawatts of renewable energy. There are plans to expand this and the 127-megawatt Dry Lake Wind Power Project. 

Nez says this partnership with the city could help the Navajo Nation take another step toward self-sufficiency. He said the Navajo government and its people cannot view themselves as victims. 

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