Access to electricity for many Native Americans is a challenge. For Native American Heritage Month, we thought it would be fitting to bring awareness to the challenges Native Americans face. The location of tribal reservations poses a significant challenge for Indigenous communities. A sizable percentage of Native American reservations are in rural parts of America. Moreover, the challenge lies in the financial expense of erecting a power grid in the middle of nowhere. Energy Transition on Tribal Nations: From Energy Insecurity to Energy Sovereignty, a piece published by Outrider, highlighted the struggles that many Native American communities in America encounter. The article stated that 14% of native American homes had no electricity access. According to the Outrider article, significant energy costs in places such as Alaska can cost the consumer as much as $1/kWh. This expense is unaffordable to many native American communities. Based on the data provided by the Navajo Job Business, the Navajo Nation, on average, has a Per Capita Income estimated at $7,269.
While renewable resources are a solution to the energy issue on Native American reservations, there are still significant impediments to developing renewable projects—the first impediment to developing renewable energy projects is economics. Many tribal nations are struggling. The median income numbers for the Navajo tribe are astounding. It is inconceivable how a low-income community could gather the monetary resources to develop large-scale energy projects. The second obstacle to renewable development is infrastructure. The location of Native American reservations varies, but many are in far-off places with little or no cell service, running water, or paved roads. It is almost impossible for construction crews to work on most native American reservations.
To address this need, multiple things must happen. The first thing that should take place is the federal government should offer financial resources to provide the infrastructure needed to gain access to the reservations. Once the infrastructure is in place, a few options can be deployed to efficiently give energy to Native American reservations. The idea that comes to mind is for electrical companies in states with rural native American reservations to partner with these communities to give access to a needed power resource. This connection between energy companies and tribal nations could provide an opportunity for a lasting partnership for generations to come.