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Tribal Climate and Energy Resources & Opportunities

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Choctaw Health Energy Living Program

The Choctaw Nation’s Healthy Energy Living Program (Project HELP) promotes energy efficiency improvements and education throughout the Choctaw Nation Indian Hospital System. It includes conducting lighting retrofit projects and working with  staff and patients on a sustainable energy educational program. The program has resulted in over $20,000 of annual energy savings. For more project information, see the complete case study here.


Santa Ynez Chumash Community Energy Efficiency, Conservation, and Renewable Energy Project

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is creating jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and associated costs. The tribe developed a job-training program designed to subsidize building performance assessments, energy efficiency retrofits, and solar installations on residential, commercial, and government buildings. For more project information, see the complete case study here.


Rincon Resort and Casino Energy Retrofit Project

The Harrah’s Rincon Resort and Casino on the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians land on Southern California recently completed an energy retrofit project that replaced 10,000 lighting fixtures, saving over $570,000 in annual energy and labor costs. For more project information, see the complete case study here (PDF) (4 pp, 1.6M, About PDF).


Washoe Tribe Building Benchmarking, Audit, and Retrofit Project

The Washoe Tribe (PDF) (19 pp, 430K, About PDF) (NV, CA) leveraged Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant and local utility funding to perform energy audits and retrofits on 22 administration and community buildings; all energy, GHG, and cost savings will be tracked by benchmarking in EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.


Improving Energy Efficiency and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Northern Cheyenne Tribe (southeastern Montana)

This Climate Showcase Community used its grant to fund energy retrofits to the Tribal Environmental Protection Department building. Goals were to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to develop energy efficiency and building-retrofitting skills among community members.
The tribe partnered with Lakota Solar Enterprises, the local tribal college, the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy and others to complete the project and to develop multiple training courses for community members.

Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency and Tribes
According to the Intertribal Council On Utility Policy, up to ninety cents of every dollar a tribe spends on energy is spent outside of their community. Improving energy efficiency not only reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere from energy use, but also lowers energy costs and creates local economic development opportunities.

Read on to learn about programs, guidance, case studies, financing and tools to support energy efficiency in tribal communities.

Tribal Benefits of Energy Efficiency
Improving energy efficiency is one of the most affordable and immediate ways to improve energy self-sufficiency, control energy costs, improve local air quality and public health, and limit a community’s carbon emissions and insulate its exposure to climate impacts. The many benefits of energy efficiency include:

  • Health & Environment - Using energy efficient products reduces harmful air pollution, which improves local air quality and reduces our impacts on natural resources. It also helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change, reducing health and environmental impacts on current and future generations.
  • Economic - Improving energy efficiency costs significantly less than investing in local energy generation. Energy efficiency can also strengthen the local economy, and lower energy billsfor families, businesses, schools, and tribal governments.
  • Housing - Improving insulation, plugging air leaks and using energy efficient heating and cooling systems can make homes more comfortable and controls energy costs.

Energy Efficiency Opportunities
There are many ways for tribes to become more energy efficient:

  • Building Codes - Building codes have many benefits (PDF) (2 pp, 397K, About PDF) when properly developed and implemented. Tribes, as sovereign nations, may adopt codes for construction on tribal lands that encourage or require sustainable, culturally appropriate, healthy and affordable buildings.
  • Building Energy Audits - Energy audits give home and building owners a sense of how energy is being used and what can be done to use less energy and to save money. Some electric utilities offer free energy audits and financial incentives.
  • Heating and Cooling – Maintenance and use of programmable thermostats, heat reflecting roofing materials, and passive solar heating and cooling all reduce energy demand.
  • Air Sealing and Insulation – Sealing and insulating of a home – its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors- is often the most cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. Sealing heating and cooling ducts can help improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems.
  • Energy Efficient Equipment – Save energy and fight climate change with ENERGY STAR certified products. They use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment. Learn how to save energy at home with ENERGY STAR.
  • Power Generation - Switching out old, inefficient motors and generators for newer models reduces electricity costs, and bolsters tribal energy self-sufficiency. Just make sure to dispose of old models in the proper way. Waste Management.

Resources
Programs

  • U.S. Department of Energy’s Tribal Energy Program provides financial and technical assistance for tribes to evaluate and develop renewable energy resources and reduce energy consumption. Resources include information about funding opportunities, existing projects, education and training, and technical assistance. The site also explains how energy efficiency technologies can reduce a tribe’s energy needs and help tribes achieve energy self-sufficiency.
  • U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income families reduce their energy bills by improving the energy efficiency of their homes.
  • ENERGY STAR is a voluntary program that helps governments, businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate by using efficient products and practices.
  • U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a voluntary program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. Among other benefits, LEED-certified buildings conserve energy and water, reduce waste, and lower operating costs.
  • The Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc. (RurAL CAP) runs the VISTA Energy Program, which helps rural Alaskan communities reduce their energy bills through energy efficiency education, planning and capacity building for both energy efficiency and renewable energy options. 
  • The Intertribal Council on Utility Policy provides policy analysis and recommendations as well as workshops on climate change research, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy planning to member tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

Guidance

Financing

Tools

  • EPA’s Portfolio Manager is an interactive energy management tool that allows building owners and managers to track and assess energy and water consumption across their entire portfolio of buildings online.
  • EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick provides a simple assessment of your home’s annual energy use compared to similar homes.

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