Environment | Opinion

Tommy Jones: Removing barriers for tribal renewable energy






Leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Nevada broke ground on a solar energy project in March. Photo from Department of Energy

Student Tommy Jones (Aleut/Cherokee) explains how his internship at the Department of Energy will help tribes with renewable energy development:
My internship with the Tribal Energy Program has directly served my desire to learn about and understand renewable energy development in Indian Country. The research I have conducted, along with fellow intern Len Necefer, has focused on addressing the gap between the significant renewable energy resource potential that Native nations have and the ability to bring this energy to market and to the benefit of tribal communities. This involved an in-depth analysis of the significant barriers that impede renewable energy development on tribal lands, including surveying experts in the field of Indian energy both at the tribal and federal government levels representing multiple Tribes and four federal departments.

Our study fills a gap in previous research, which has not effectively captured the scope of the barriers that Tribes must overcome and the extent of their impact on successful implementation of tribal renewable energy projects. It is evident from our research that each Native nation is unique in terms of the barriers they face. Early data is revealing that:

Lack of tribal leadership and staff capacity, funding, customers for energy resources, and energy development partnerships are among the most significant barriers to development.
Culture is perceived to be a barrier only in the context of large-scale development that could impact cultural resources.
Federal regulation and nontribal governments are not seen as barriers to development, although congressionally appropriated Renewable Energy Tax Credits and state-mandated renewable energy portfolio standards are significant factors.
Federal programs and initiatives, including technical assistance, funding, webinars, and conferences are considered critical for capacity building and successful development.

Get the Story:
Tommy Jones: DOE Tribal Intern Aims to Improve Conditions in Indian Country by Addressing Barriers to Renewable Energy Development (DOE Blog 9/17)