Secretary of Energy visit highlights $34 Million in funding for Tribal Communities
June 2, 2023
Gila River Indian News
State tribal leaders convened for a roundtable with U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm at the Heard Museum in Phoenix on May 23 to discuss energy resilience and the many energy priorities and concerns facing tribes.
“On behalf of all the tribal nations represented here today, we are so appreciative of Secretary Granholm and the Department of Energy for holding today’s critical roundtable,” said Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis in his opening remarks.
In addition to Gov. Lewis, tribal leaders present included Ak-Chin Indian Community Chairman Robert Miguel, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, Pascua Yaqui Chairman Peter Yucupicio, White Mountain Apache Tribe Vice-President Jerome Kasey and Pascua Yaqui Councilwoman Herminia Frias.
Tribal utility representatives included Gila River Utility Authority general manager Kenneth Stock, San Carlos Apache Tribe general manager Christabelle Mull, Tohono O’odham Utility Authority general manager Brian Fickett, and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Deputy General Manager Arash Moalemi.
Prior to the roundtable, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $34 million in funding to advance clean energy technology in 18 tribal communities throughout the country, including Arizona’s San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Hopi Tribe.
Funding is intended to “strengthen tribal communities by supercharging their access to solar power and microgrids, increasing energy security and resilience, and powering unelectrified tribal buildings,” according to a DOE press release on Energy.gov.
“These selected projects reflect DOE’s commitment to meet the climate crisis head on and guarantee tribal communities have access to electricity and clean energy technology,” said Granholm in the press release. “These crucial investments support President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while ensuring American Indian and Alaska Native communities, many of whom are facing the most dire consequences of climate change, will directly benefit from these investments, resulting in stronger, more resilient tribal nations.”
Gov. Lewis thanked Granholm and the Biden Administration for providing funding to tribal communities during a critical time. He noted that GRIC received funding to install solar panel covers over water canals for energy production and to prevent evaporation.
“Climate change is occurring here in Arizona, as well for the Gila River Indian Community, central and southern Arizona,” said Gov. Lewis. He emphasized that climate change can affect the monsoon season and that resulting seasonal microbursts can cause downed power lines and widespread power outages.
The newly funded projects are estimated to result in more than nine megawatts of new clean energy generation and more than 6,700 megawatt-hours of battery storage, impact 1,000 tribal buildings, and save tribal communities more than $100 million over the life of the systems, according to a press release.
It also noted that these cost-shared clean energy projects, valued at more than $49 million, are the result of two competitive funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) released November 2022: One for the deployment of clean energy technology and one to power unelectrified tribal buildings.
The release continued, “Through these FOAs and these selected projects, the Office of Indian Energy continues its efforts to strengthen tribal energy and economic infrastructure, resource development and electrification on tribal lands.”
It stated that from fiscal years 2010 to 2022, DOE invested over $120 million in more than 210 tribal energy projects implemented across the contiguous 48 United States and Alaska.