Various types of technical assistance are available for tribes interested in developing energy projects, primarily through the major federal support programs with some additional NM-based resources. In particular, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy provides a range of technical resources directly, and through programs based at The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, as summarized below.
Note that many of these programs offer regular informational webinars, and specifically to help explain new funding opportunity announcements and answer questions (for example, see recordings of the most recent Energy Infrastructure Deployment on Tribal Lands and Energy Technology Deployment on Tribal Lands webinars).
DOE Office of Indian Energy
U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy (OIE) provides a range of Technical Assistance, Planning, and Education at no cost to interested tribal organizations, featuring:
- Technical Assistance
- Tribal Strategic Energy Plan and Planning Handbook
- Online curriculum on developing and financing renewable energy projects
The Strategic Energy Planning assistance process (depicted in the graphic below) is often a good starting point for tribes beginning to plan future energy projects. Completion of the process and an Energy Plan can be helpful when making a project funding application:
In addition, the OIE’s Development Assistance Tool summarizes a range of other technical, as well as financial, support programs available. And in this interview with OIE Director Kevin R. Frost (Southern Ute), he describes “…how he hopes the Office’s upcoming funding opportunity will benefit tribes looking to develop their energy resources… and his past, his hopes for the future, and what motivates him to lead the Office of Indian Energy.”
DOE’s Renewable Energy Development in Indian Country handbook is designed to be an accessible reference for those who are new to tribal energy project development or seek a refresher on key development issues as they navigate the project development process. It builds upon the wealth of feedback and experiences shared by tribal and other participants in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s tribal energy training sessions to provide tribal leaders, tribal economic and energy enterprises, and those supporting them with a general overview of the renewable energy project development process as well as detailed guidance.
Sandia National Laboratories’ primary role is to provide technical assistance to DOE headquarters and field offices in support of Indian energy initiatives, and to conduct renewable energy resource and technology options assessments. In prior years, the laboratory has managed the Indian Energy Program’s student internships, which supports interns working on energy projects. The internship program may resume in the future.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created and maintains the Tribal Energy Atlas, a first-of-its-kind interactive geospatial application that allows tribes and others to conduct their own analyses of installed energy projects and resource potential on tribal lands.
NREL also provides technical assistance to tribes on working with local military installations. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has announced several strategic energy goals including obtaining 25% of its energy from renewable energy and promoting energy security. According to DoD, there are more than 50 tribes located adjacent to or near military installations, and as shown in this OIE publication, this includes eight in New Mexico.
U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
BIA’s Tribal Energy Development Capacity program has as its goal “…to develop tribal management, organizational and technical capacity needed to maximize the economic impact of energy resource development on Indian land. The TEDC grant gives tribes the ability to develop or enhance their business and regulatory environment for energy resource development.”
BIA’s Native American Business Development Institute occasionally solicits proposals from tribes for technical assistance funding to hire consultants to perform feasibility studies of economic development opportunities located in designated Opportunity Zones. These grants are also intended to fund applicants to obtain qualified guidance on how the development projects, businesses, or technologies they propose can attract investments from an Opportunity Fund.
Tribal planners may also wish to note that in 2019, BIA offered Build Tribal Energy Development Capacity grants. “Proposed projects must include building tribal capacity to: develop organizational structures, business entity structures, or develop or enhance regulatory functions. All of the functions are related to building tribal energy development capacity for the purpose of strengthening tribal capacity for development and management of energy projects.” Future opportunities under this program may arise.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program is designed to provide technical assistance and training for small rural businesses, including tribal entities and energy development. Small means that the business has fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue. Grants can be used for training and technical assistance; acquisition of land, rights-of-way, and machinery and equipment; feasibility studies; capitalization of revolving loan funds; and strategic business planning.
Local Technical Assistance
Positive Energy Solar (a NM-based PV installation company) will provide grant proposal assistance on USDA grants that include them as a project partner; and if not a partner, they may contribute technical assistance as time permits.
PNM’s Tribal Government Relations Team “…actively engages our eight tribal customer communities and businesses through valued relationships and outreach. Our business operations work together with 16 of the 23 New Mexico’s tribes to address the energy needs of our tribal partners.
Give Us Your Opinion
ESI is evaluating the need for additional local Technical Assistance focused on NM tribal energy projects. Please send us your thoughts and opinions via the Contact form.