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Podcast Features Navajo Leader Building Economic and Energy Justice in Tribal Lands

Climate Justice Climate Energy Environmental Justice

This blog post features the fifth in a series of six episodes in season seven of Connect the Dots, the Center for Progressive Reform’s podcast on climate solutions.

Episode five, “Climate Win: Navajo Power Brings Clean Energy to Tribal Lands,” welcomes Brett Isaac, the co-founder of Navajo Power which is a Public Benefit Corporation that develops utility-scale clean energy projects on tribal lands and maximizes the economic benefits for those communities. In the episode, host Rob Verchick and Isaac talk about the lack of electricity on tribal lands and the struggling economies there, as well as Isaac’s plan to light a better future. 

Isaac grew up in the Navajo Nation where he witnessed firsthand many of the problems he is working to solve today. The most pertinent problem was the lack of electricity on tribal land. While many residents worked at the local coal mine, which fueled the regional electricity grid, the utility companies didn’t provide electricity to the roughly 15,000 tribal residents, so they relied on generators or went without electricity–at least, before Isaac and Navajo Power began to change things. 

Reenergizing the Neighborhood

Isaac saw the need to bring reliable and affordable electricity to the Navajo Nation. He founded a small company, Shanto Electric, and supplied power to a few hundred homes using off-grid development. The time was not without growing pains and financial lessons, so Isaac took those learnings and founded Navajo Power, which focuses on developing large scale utility projects on tribal lands. Isaac believes that tribal land is ideal for these projects because of the availability of land and because abandoned and decommissioned coal plants and natural gas facilities create competitive room for tribal solar power.

Since August 2022, Navajo Power Homes has brought electricity to over 100 homes, and in doing so has created jobs. Resident-powered solar is a job creator because solar panels require installation and maintenance. In what has become cyclical solar sustainability, Navajo Power Home reinvests 80 percent of profits back into the communities in which it works so as to develop more projects. 

While Navajo Power has earned praise from tribes in Arizona, California, and Oregon, Isaac also notes that there is generational hesitancy toward companies promising economic viability and reliable, affordable energy, given the tribes’ experience with false promises from coal, gas, and nuclear industries. Isaac and his team are working to ease those concerns and show the real value and trustworthiness of solar energy and Navajo Power. 

In addition to his work with tribal lands, Isaac was appointed to President Joe Biden’s Export Council in February 2023. This position recognizes the quality of Isaac’s skills and expertise, and opens the door for Isaac to advocate for Native communities on a federal level. 

Issac’s goal of bringing electricity to neighborhoods of racial minorities is comparable to Ajulo Othow’s work. Featured on episode 7.3, “Climate Win: Energy Justice and Community Solar Power,” Othow brings solar energy to the homes of predominantly Black residents in rural America. Both Othow and Isaac are bringing climate justice to communities that have been historically overburdened and underserved. 

For all the details to this episode, listen to Connect the Dots on your favorite podcasting platform and be sure to subscribe to catch the final episode of the season on How Wins are Won.

For more content on Connect the Dots, visit us on Instagram (@progressivereform).

Climate Justice Climate Energy Environmental Justice

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