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Timothy Chavez: Tribes looking for energy development partners

In 2009, federally recognized tribes across the U.S. received a collective $54.8 million in federal funding from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program to support energy efficiency and conservation initiatives. These funds are critical to the path forward for new and established tribal energy programs, yet many tribes are struggling to mobilize their energy plans.

There are a myriad of resources from federal, state and private sectors that offer tribes the information to establish and implement a tribal energy efficiency and conservation strategy. While sources such as the Department of Energy’s Tribal Energy Program exist to promote tribal energy sufficiency, the fact remains that many tribes lack an internal knowledge and expertise to realize improved energy efficiency and reduction in utility costs. As a result, grant dollars often times sit idle.

There are companies from the private sector that have attempted to capitalize on these grant dollars, which bring life to tribal energy programs. However, they also limit the long-term benefit a tribe achieves by establishing lease payments on renewable energy technologies, for example.

For tribes in the early stages of energy development planning, a cautious approach is the best approach when identifying an outside consultant. A collaborative partner should be thinking beyond energy savings to the tribe. Economic Development. Job creation. Education and training opportunities. Asset development. These activities constitute the very powerful and enduring qualities of an effective tribal energy program.

Cooperative energy partners empower internal tribal resources and create a learning opportunity that leads to self-sufficiency. By working to identify the right partners in energy programming, tribes can ensure an energy program that offers long-lasting benefits to their communities.

Timothy Chavez is a member of the Pueblo of Acoma and President of Kaatsiima, a Native American-owned consulting firm that supports tribal energy initiatives. Mr. Chavez can be reached at (505) 837-2104 or Mr. Chavez will also be attending the Reservation Economic Summit and American Indian Business Trade Fair (Booth #831) on March 16th and 17th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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