Navajo Leaders: Renewable Energy Transition Must Account for Equity

Native American leaders in the Southwest want to ensure their communities have a voice, and an opportunity for well-paying jobs, in renewable energy projects on Native land.

January 19, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

U.S. Department of the Interior

Autumn's Memories / Shutterstock

As the United States prepares to transition its energy supply to renewable sources, writes Carl Segerstrom, leaders of Native communities that have for decades borne the brunt of fossil fuel-based energy production are working to ensure that they have a say in how the transition affects their regions and local residents.

According to an analysis released last year, transitioning to renewable fuels will create jobs for Native communities in New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. "Fossil fuel jobs will be lost, but the studies found that the investments to decarbonize would create large numbers of jobs relative to business as usual." The analysis included recommendations for creating sustainable, career-track jobs and mandating diverse hiring practices.

Despite the transition to new energy sources and technologies, most new jobs will be in traditional trades such as electricians, carpenters, and mechanics, expanding the number of jobs in general trades rather than specialized "green" niche work. As renewable industries create more well-paying careers, Navajo leaders like Joseph F. Hernandez, the Diné energy organizer for the NAVA Education Project, hope that "future generations can expand agriculture and diversify the local economy, rather than be forced to rely on industries that destroy the health of the land and people."

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