Austin Energy apprentice lineworkers gain valuable experience in bringing power to Arizona's Navajo Nation

November 6, 2023

Austin Energy apprentice lineworker working in Navajo NationAfter Austin Energy crews helped bring power to homes in the Navajo Nation in the spring of 2022 and 2023, Austin Energy apprentice linework crews traveled to Dilkon, Arizona to aid the Light Up Navajo effort once again. Austin Energy crews installed 155 power poles and nearly 10 miles of overhead wires to assist in powering homes for the first time.

A total of 19 crew members and 10 Austin Energy trucks traveled 4,000 round-trip miles and worked for two weeks alongside Navajo tribal utilities and other public power providers from across the country.

This was the first time that an Austin Energy crew consisting almost entirely of apprentice lineworkers made the trip to Navajo Nation. Apprentice lineworkers train for more than four years before earning the title of Journeyman lineworker. The environmental challenges and unique terrain of Arizona offered the crews tremendous opportunities to learn skills that will benefit Austin Energy customers. More importantly, the ability to provide electricity to Navajo families is something the lineworkers will never forget.

“To say this experience changes your life doesn’t do it justice,” said Mark Lopez, an Austin Energy distribution electrician supervisor. “Line work is about serving others and doing a job few people in the world can do. To bring power to these families, children, parents, grandparents… there’s no other feeling like it. To have this kind of training opportunity and see the impact it makes is just incredibly humbling.”

See photos of Austin Energy crews working in Navajo Nation

About the Light Up Navajo Project

Thanks to a partnership between utilities like Austin Energy, the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), many Navajo families are turning on the lights in their homes for the first time.

Not having access to electricity has many repercussions for Navajo families: lack of access to running water, reliable lighting, modern forms of home heating and cooling and appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves. Families in the Navajo Nation drive 1 to 1.5 hours once or twice a week to reach watering points where they can fill 250-gallon plastic tanks with water for cooking, cleaning and drinking. To keep food from perishing, families often must use portable coolers filled with ice to preserve their food.

Since spring of 2022, Austin Energy crews, along with utility providers from across the country, have helped connect hundreds of Navajo Nation homes to the electrical grid.