03/24/15 : Anna Hahnemann

Tribal Energy Program Sets Example for Success

San Jacinto, California, home to the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, will be one of the locations of the new projects.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has deployed several initiatives and projects to support the mission of creating a clean energy economy. EERE’s Tribal Energy Program supports a variety of energy projects on tribal lands, which provide financial and technical assistance to strengthen tribal energy self-sufficiency, create employment opportunities and further economic development.

New Funding

As part of the Administration’s commitment to working with American Indians and Alaska Natives, DOE recently announced 11 tribal communities will receive nearly $6 million in funding to accelerate the implementation of renewable and energy efficiency technologies. The Tribal Energy Program has existed for years, delivering tangible results for tribes across the nation. Since 2002, DOE has invested $48 million in 183 tribal clean energy projects valued at $93.6 million. The program has a three base approach, providing tribes with financial opportunities, technical assistance, education and training.

How it Works

A competitive process provides financial opportunities to develop tribal renewable energy resources and reduce energy consumption through efficiency and weatherization. Through these investments, DOE has been able to retrofit 70 tribal buildings saving $2.5 million per year. Energy audits have also been completed on more than 250 tribal buildings.

Planning and Development

The Tribal Energy Program and the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs work together to provide strategic planning and development technical assistance to address necessary steps and/or challenges for the successful completion of clean energy projects. The on-site workshops and expert guidance assist tribal leaders and staff in understanding their energy resources and making informed decisions about their energy choices.

Education and Training

The third segment of the program consists of education and training opportunities that build the knowledge and skills essential for developing, implementing and sustaining those energy projects. Over the years, the program has sponsored 29 Native American student summer interns, delivered over 45 workshops providing training to more than 2,400 individuals, presented monthly tribal renewable energy development webinars reaching an average of 1,000 tribe members per year, and delivered bi-weekly email communications to more than 4,000 subscribers.

The Tribal Energy Program has successfully helped tribal communities because it offers the tools and funding needed for deployment along with base knowledge and skills necessary to maintain the implemented technologies. The program demonstrates that making resources available is only the first step in achieving a secure energy future. Communities’ knowledge and commitment to clean energy sources is an important difference between short-term fixes and long-term solutions.