News & Insights

Energy and Infrastructure Planning Positions Tribes for Long-term Success

Energy affects the sovereignty of your Tribe, the profitability of your Tribe’s businesses, the sustainability of your Tribe’s natural resources, and the quality of life for members of your Tribe’s community. Despite the importance of power, many Tribes simply pay the monthly electric bill. Tribes that take a proactive approach to develop a Tribal Energy Vision and plan specific energy goals are well-positioned for success. Tribes that take a passive approach may miss out on opportunities to exercise sovereignty, support economic development, and enhance environmental sustainability.

The energy industry is in a period of unprecedented change as technology, regulations, and utility business models are rapidly evolving. The evolving industry presents both opportunities and complexity for Tribes. The diagram below provides a roadmap for Tribes to navigate the complexity and shift from a passive approach to a proactive approach that capitalizes on energy opportunities.

Below are three recommendations for Tribes seeking to invest in Tribal energy projects:

1. Create an Energy Vision

Each Tribe is different and has its own definition of success. Tribal leadership should define how it weighs the key drivers of energy decisions: sovereignty, self-sufficiency, economics, and environmental impact. When prioritizing these key drivers, Tribes should think long-term. The conversation should focus on where the Tribe wants to be 5, 10, and even 30 years in the future. Stakeholders from different departments should be included in the visioning process, as energy decisions affect the Tribe’s economic development, natural resources, housing, finances, and other areas.

2. Create a plan that fits your Tribe’s Energy Vision

With the Tribe’s success criteria defined, the Tribe can evaluate alternatives and assess how well the alternatives align with the Tribe’s long-term vision. Some examples of energy alternatives to consider are listed below in Figure 2:

To assess the long-term value of an energy investment, the Tribe should have a clear understanding of its current energy landscape. This includes an understanding of how much energy the Tribe uses, where it is sourced from, and how much that energy costs. Tribes can consider maintaining a simple energy dashboard that can be quickly understood by a broad audience across Tribal departments. An example is shown in Figure 3.

3. Bring projects to life and celebrate successes

Lastly, Tribes need to work with experienced partners to bring the energy plan to life. Organizations like the Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association (MTERA) and Arizona Tribal Energy Association (ATEA) are great resources for Tribes to learn from other Tribes that have implemented similar projects. As the Tribe completes projects, the successes should be celebrated and the progress towards the Tribe’s long-term energy goals should be tracked.

 

There are several financial resources available to Tribes interested in taking a more proactive approach towards energy and infrastructure planning. These include:

Coauthors:

 

Avant has more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry and has dedicated significant time to advancing energy development in Indian Country. Avant helps Tribes plan energy investments and take advantage of funding opportunities to bring the plan to life.