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WASHINGTON — The Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs announced plans for a $50 million funding opportunity targeting clean energy deployment on tribal lands.

The new funding initiative builds on federal efforts to support tribal energy development under climate measures in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. 

The funding program will distribute grant awards of $100,000 to $2.5 million to federally recognized tribes for projects involving clean energy measures on tribal buildings, community-scale installations, off-grid clean backup solutions or lighting non-electrified buildings. 

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The grant amounts could grow to $250,000 to $5 million, based on interest in the program, per a Department of Energy statement. 

“We hope this investment will provide aid to American Indian and Alaska Native communities to address high energy costs and unreliable electricity, as well as bring power to unelectrified homes,” Wahleah Johns, director of the Office of Indian Energy said in a statement. “The $50 million that will soon be available is intended to support the transition to a clean energy future and energy sovereignty.”

The funding represents a significant surge in momentum for the Office of Indian Energy, which distributed roughly $120 million to tribal energy projects over the 13-year period between 2010 and 2022. That funding helped 210 projects create more than $215 million in value due to match funding from tribes, according to a DOE statement. It’s unclear if this new funding opportunity is a matched grant, which has otherwise fallen out of fashion amid federal support programs.

The program is another tool in a widening belt for tribes hoping to build economic and energy sovereignty through renewable projects, according to prior Tribal Business News reporting. In addition to $75 million in guaranteed loans through the Department of Energy, tribes have begun receiving unmatched grant awards and large tax credits capable of recouping much of the cost of a given project.

Those new funding sources that came with the Inflation Reduction Act have been an “absolute game changer” for tribal governments hoping to step into the energy arena, said Indigenous Energy Initiative founder and managing director Cheri Smith.

“This is unprecedented,” Smith told Tribal Business News. “This is an economy-changing amount of money. It will provide jobs, it will generate revenue, and that is so powerful. Clean energy is a lever to accomplish all of that.”

About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Staff Writer
Chez Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is a staff writer for Tribal Business News. Based in Oklahoma, he focuses on broadband, Indigenous entrepreneurs, and federal policy. His journalism has been featured in Native News Online, Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Baconian Magazine, and Oklahoma Magazine, among others.
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