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Mountain West tribes to receive millions from Inflation Reduction Act to electrify homes

This is a wide-angle image of rows of a large solar farm, backdropped by towering desert mountains.
Matt Deluge
Flickr Creative Commons
The Interior Department is spending $72 million to help tribal communities electrify homes, with the goal of using clean energy energy sources, like solar farms.

Nationwide, nearly 17,000 homes on tribal lands didn’t have electricity in 2022, according to federal data. The Biden administration is making new investments to address the issue.

The federal government is spending $72 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to help tribal communities electrify homes, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. The agency says the goal is for tribes to use or invest in clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

The funding, distributed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Electrification Program, will provide financial and technical help to 21 tribes. More than a third of the funds – about $26 million – will flow to tribes in the Mountain West region.

One of the biggest grants is going to the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the U.S., covering 25,000 square miles across corners of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The tribe is receiving a $10 million grant to connect homes to the electric grid and invest in clean energy systems.

The funding will aid hundreds of Navajo families, said Deenise Becenti, a spokesperson with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, the energy provider for Navajo homes.

“It helps reduce the anxiety of not having refrigeration, or electricity for heating, for cooling. It just kind of reduces the stress levels of families who have to live without electricity,” said Becenti, noting there are currently 13,000 of those families across Navajo Nation.

Elsewhere in the Mountain West, the Pueblo of Santa Ana in New Mexico is receiving $14.5 million, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in Wyoming is receiving $1 million, and the Shoshone Paiute Tribes in Nevada and Idaho are receiving $525,000.

A second round of funding availability is expected to be announced this spring, according to the Interior Department.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.