Equity, justice, climate change driving Apple initiative.
Equity, justice, climate change driving Apple initiative.
The new class will include Navajo Power, a renewable energy company in Flagstaff, represented by Brett Isaac, a co-founder and the executive chairman of the company.
Navajo Power is a majority Native-owned public benefit corporation that develops utility-scale energy projects with a focus on providing cultural and economic empowerment to tribal nations.
Launched last year, the Impact Accelerator class has the goal of ensuring Apple’s strategic work and investments to protect the environment and expand access to opportunities for communities of color.
“We’re excited, because it’s a very competitive process,” Isaac said. “Apple is very selective over the companies that they choose to support and, being indigenous, these opportunities are very rare instances. So, having the support of a global brand like Apple is really acknowledging the amount of work that our team has put into prepping our company going forward, and really is a statement to the quality and the intentions of the company to achieve its mission.”
The AIA program is a virtual program that provides its selected cohort members access to participate within Apple’s corporate network through a series of workshops and mentor-guided sessions, he explained.
Isaac said he will be leading Navajo Power’s participation, along with Clara Pratt, the director of government relations, and Adelita Barrett, director of project finance.
“Apple really believes in providing this access of knowledge and information to key decision makers within the company,” Isaac added.
Participating businesses, hand-selected by Apple because they share the goal of creating a greener world, go through a three-month program that provides training and mentorship as part of Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative and to further its climate change goals.
Other members of the class include companies from across the country, including California, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas, that work toward a variety of goals such as recycling innovation, carbon reduction, e-waste recycling, monitoring of water pollution, maximization of soil health and introduction of eco-friendly materials into construction.
“Following the program, the companies will be considered for business opportunities with Apple as it works to achieve carbon neutrality across its entire manufacturing supply chain by 2030,” according to an Aug. 25 Apple newsroom article. “Apple has been carbon neutral for its corporate operations since 2020.”
A mission-driven company, Navajo Power officials say they develop projects designed to build strong and credible relationships with communities, to unveil access to clean energy for First Nations.
“Really, our activities are focused on helping to regenerate communities affected by the transition in terms of like coal closures and the transition away from fossil fuels,” Isaac said. “These communities themselves are some of the most vulnerable, even without the transition occurring. They have high unemployment, as well as a lack of infrastructure. And we felt that Navajo Power was a necessity in order to address these issues from the private sector.”
The Navajo Power endeavor was started in 2018 by Isaac and Dan Rosen, in partnership with Tony Skrelunas, former director of economic development for the Navajo Nation, and Joshua Finn, a solar finance professional.
“Dan and I were the two original founders,” Isaac said. “Dan, being a Jewish kid from New Jersey, and myself, being Navajo, really saw a need for a different type of development. And we had previously been involved in the energy industry in different segments; Dan being in residential finance and myself being in off-grid and community-based solar. So, we are really born out of the Navajo Nation and in response to the closure of the Navajo Generating Station.”
Isaac added that Rosen is a co-founder and former CEO of Mosaic, which has now provided more than $10 billion in loans for residential solar deployment across the United States.
Currently, Navajo Power has projects under development with tribal partners in multiple states, including New Mexico, Arizona, California and Oregon.
“We have plans of expanding into other parts,” Isaac noted. “Our team members are predominantly virtual. We have team members on the East Coast, West Coast, in Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, as well as in Mexico City. So, we’re really building this team to bring together the best talent from around North America, in addressing some of the largest challenges that indigenous communities are facing with this transition.”
There are strong reasons for basing Navajo Power in Flagstaff, Isaac said. “We’re close to our sacred mountain, the San Francisco Peaks, in Navajo called Dooksliid, and it represents the Western gateway to our traditional homelands. Really, that’s where we derive our strength from. We wanted to be able to base ourselves in a sacred place so that we had clear thoughts and to be constantly reminded about the vision and mission.”
To move ahead with this vision and mission, Isaac has personally designed, built, deployed and maintained more than 200 off-grid solar systems on the Navajo Nation for households who lacked electricity. He has also worked with local chapters in the Nation to execute numerous community development initiatives.
One of his first initiatives was the development of a community-owned enterprise, the creation of a solar company at Shonto on the Navajo Nation – Shonto Energy.
“Navajo Power was really born out of some of the things that we saw previously as challenges to tribal development,” Isaac said. “One of them was needing to be a larger player and influencer over how energy was developed on tribal lands, getting involved in advocacy on the tribal policy and government relations spectrum, and then also helping to make tribal lands investable.”
Everyone will need to work together for the common good.
“We really want to be collaborative with our neighbors and our allies, because this transition is going to require all that collaboration and support we have in order to make a better place for our communities,” he concluded. “Ultimately, we want to preserve the beauty of this area through the cultivation of renewable clean energy projects.” QCBN
By Betsey Bruner, QCBN
For more information, visit navajopower.com.